Social justice charity Commonweal Housing is offering not-for-profit organisations funding, support measures and property in an effort to find housing-based solutions to social injustices. It is particularly focussed on organisations working to support vulnerable women and those involved in the criminal justice system, with these groups facing a gulf in adequate housing provision.
Commonweal’s partnership programme, Call for New Ideas, is entering its third year. The organisation has already successfully supported several organisations in developing original housing solutions to social injustices, including supported housing for women in contact with the criminal justice system and their children, and affordable accommodation for those excluded from both the social housing and private rented sectors.
The charity, which has previously worked with leading charities including St Mungo’s and Solace Women’s Aid, has identified three priority focus areas where high rates of homelessness occur and housing support and provision is lacking. These are:
- The criminal justice system
- Violence against women and girls (VAWG)
- Systemic injustices that occur at points of transition in people’s lives, such as exiting the asylum system
The need for suitable accommodation for ex-offenders – a key focus of last year’s Prisons Strategy White Paper – remains critical, with more than half of prison leavers released into homelessness in the first year of the pandemic. Watchdogs have warned that gaps in accommodation support contracts have left thousands of prisoners at risk of homelessness and reoffending on release.
A new duty on local authorities to provide survivors of domestic abuse with “accommodation-based support”, introduced by the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act, has not prevented the number of households made homeless by domestic abuse rising by more than a third since the start of the pandemic, forcing some women to choose between homelessness or staying with an abusive partner.
A recent Refugee Council report found that 98 percent of refugees referred to an accommodation scheme were homeless. Meanwhile one in five of the 1.3 million people in the asylum system who are excluded from employment as well as mainstream benefits and housing have experienced homelessness or insecure accommodation.
The rates of homelessness in these populations make plain the failures in giving these groups adequate access to the housing that will help them overcome the challenges they face. Commonweal is allocating funding, housing, and support to frontline organisations from inception through to full project development. It will also support partners in sharing learnings through media, policy work, and project replication.
Amy Doyle, deputy chief executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “As the housing crisis deepens, the already marginalised are often hit the hardest, doubling their disadvantage. We know how crucial housing can be in helping people overcome the barriers they face, but because of these barriers, its often housing they lose out on. Forward-thinking housing projects are needed more than ever. Commonweal is privileged and proud to have the freedom to test and explore new ideas for housing solutions to social injustice and inequalities. Sharing that freedom with frontline organisations is at the heart of who we are.”
Commonweal is seeking submissions related to VAWG, the criminal justice system, and life transitions, but it may also consider exceptional applications that do not fall within these categories, and is especially welcoming applications from BAME-led and focussed organisations. Successful applicants will be supported to carry out a short-term study to establish the feasibility of their proposed model for a property-based pilot project. Successful applicants who have already completed a substantial amount of feasibility research will instead be invited to share this research with Commonweal, and to discuss what steps would be needed to develop the idea into a pilot project. If there is scope for a pilot to go ahead, Commonweal would look at ways to support the organisation to initiate and run their own pilot later this year or in 2023.
Applications close at 9am Tuesday 3rd May 2022. Full information and an application form can be found at: www.commonwealhousing.org.uk/partner-with-us/call-for-new-ideas