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Homeless should have say in policy making, says study

Policy makers should listen to people who have a personal experience of homelessness to help tackle the rising problem.

Strategies to combat rising homelessness should be based on the views of people directly affected by the problem, according to an ongoing joint study.

The researchers at the Universities of Salford, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan highlight how the voices of those with nowhere to live are not being heard which is fuelling the stereotype of homelessness as people sleeping on the streets.

Those with experience of being homeless should be included in the policy-making process so that the homelessness crisis can be sustainably addressed, they add.

The researchers are also calling for a return to policies where marginalised community groups, such as people visiting food banks or families facing the prospect of nowhere to live, have a say in how councils spend their budgets and design services around homelessness.

The issues raised by the study will be discussed at an event as part of the annual Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science.

“Economic and social and economic oppression is inextricably linked to homelessness,” says Stanislav Benes, from the University of Salford.

“Our aim is to embed the voices of those who’ve experienced not having a roof over their heads into decisions about housing, support and urban development. The long-term vision of making poverty in all forms a thing of the past will only be realised by including people who’ve experience it.”

The major focus by the media and policy-makers has been on visible homelessness. However, only a tiny percentage involves people on the streets in city centres — the majority of those affected are living in hostels, short-term accommodation or relying on the generosity of friends to provide a roof over their heads.

The ESRC-funded study by the researchers aims to capture the reasons behind this and what those affected actually experience.

It is investigating how people from different backgrounds and standpoints, from mayors to those with first-hand experience of services, can be part of the same decision-making process and share the same vision to end homelessness in Manchester together.

People with lived experience of homelessness are being encouraged by the researchers to provide their own accounts for the project. The study is also based on discussions with charities who involve those with lived experience directly in their mission to combat the problem.

They include the Manchester Homelessness Partnership (MHP), a grassroots initiative aimed at preventing homelessness and improving services.

A charter drawn up by the MHP outlines key principles towards people currently without a home. These include people with experience of homelessness having a voice and involvement in determining solutions to their own issues, to homelessness, and in wider society.

The findings referenced in this release will be shared as part of an event entitled Framing Homelessness on 7 November for the general public. The event is part of the ESRC’s flagship annual Festival of Social Science.

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