Insights on Homelessness from Across the Pond

This year five homeless service providers from the United States, and five from the United Kingdom had the opportunity to study an innovative practice on the other side of the Atlantic. The experience is fascinating and eye-opening for all of the participants, who gain a new perspective on their work. I asked a few of the participants what is one thing they wished more people knew about our responses to homelessness in the US and UK. The ten participant’s findings were compiled and released in a new report.

What do you wish Americans understood about homelessness in the UK?

That involving people with lived experience is key- people who have insider knowledge of the system should have a say in program development and service provision.  – Kendra Lutes
The US can learn from UK’s safety net. The number of individuals sleeping outdoors in the UK is much lower than the US. I attribute this to the UK’s history of extensive affordable housing resources and universal health care. – Erika Schmale

What do you wish people in the UK understood about homelessness in the US?

I wish people in the UK were as receptive to the concept of Housing First as they were in the US. From my experience housing in the UK is very much seen as a reward, not only by members of the public, but existing service providers and many other professionals. – Jonny Goldsmith
The UK can learn from the housing first practices used in the U.S. In the UK, individuals deemed intentionally homeless or those not from the area have barriers to accessing hostels and housing. On top of this, there are many steps to permanent housing, making the process slow and leaving opportunities for a client to end up back on the streets. – Erika Schmale
Young people in the UK asked me often about what young people in the US experience when they are homeless and I’m not sure I was able to adequately express the difference to them.  While they become homeless for similar reasons and have very similar needs, the impact of systemic racism on American society is difficult to explain to young people who haven’t experienced America outside of music, film or television.  In discussing what our response looks like in the US, young people were really impressed by our homeless liaison program in Chicago.  Many of them told me that they had nobody to talk to in their school. – Tedd Peso