A group of Tyneside residents are guiding research to better help people experiencing homelessness by shaping services that improve health and wellbeing.
Seven residents with lived experience of homelessness from Tyne Housing – a North East housing and support provider – were enlisted as Experts by Experience to work with Northumbria University on a research project which brings together a range of services, NHS providers and academics.
Led by Professor Monique Lhussier, the project aims to develop improved data sharing techniques and includes the creation of a virtual directory which will map the services and options available for those facing homelessness and associated complex social and healthcare needs, as well as being available to service providers to further develop integrated ways of working.
As a project partner, Tyne Housing has been awarded £10,000 innovation funding to be used to support vulnerable residents and visitors across Tyne’s accommodation schemes.
Tyne’s Experts by Experience managed the Innovation Fund and selected projects from applications which were put forward by housing support staff, residents and visitors.
Six projects are now underway and will benefit around 300 individuals this summer, including a bike maintenance and riding project, a clothing store at the Joseph Cowen Health Centre for those experiencing homelessness or insecure housing, and Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food cooking sessions to teach practical cooking skills.
Another is called the ‘Hope Project’ – the brainchild of Tyne resident Stephen Helliwell who wanted to help other residents create happy memories – which has funded 18 activities for residents and visitors including a cinema trip, pizza nights and a trip to Kielder.
Stephen said: “Often when things are difficult for people to cope with what can help is positive memories from better times. My Hope Project hopefully will give individuals some nice memories which, if needed, can be used when things go wrong and life gets tough.”
Throughout the project, Tyne’s Experts by Experience have played an active role in attending and delivering multiple workshops at Northumbria University alongside several stakeholders and project partners, including a dissemination event last week to present the funded projects.
Steve McKinlay, Chief Executive of Tyne Housing, said: “Working collaboratively on this research with Northumbria University and our Experts by Experience has enabled us to use the knowledge and experience of people who have lived through periods of homelessness to inform and improve support services.
“We recognise that people who find themselves homeless all have unique experiences and support needs to start with building a trusted relationship.
“This research is central to Tyne’s commitment to getting people to a better place and the services we provide continue to improve when those who have received support are able to participate in research like this.”
The research, Building and Evidencing Community Asset Partnerships in Housing and Health to Address Health Disparities in North East and North Cumbria, is one of a wave of projects which form part of a £26 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC) investment, aimed at using existing local resources to create a fairer and healthier society.
Based within Northumbria University’s Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing, Professor Lhussier is Director of CHASE, Northumbria’s flagship Centre for Health and Social Equity.
She explained: “The project has brought together a range of services, academics and people who have been homeless to work together to improve the health and wellbeing of all community members. We have worked in direct and equal collaboration with people who have experienced homelessness so that all people can have access to the support they need, when they need it, and in the way they need it.
“People’s lives do not fit into neat boxes and this project is about building a network of services that can be shaped more around the person, rather than the other way around.”