People with lived experience of homelessness to be given greater voice in local decision-making

The Lived Experience Advisory Forum is a partnership approach between the Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, Aspire and The Gatehouse that ensures people who have their own experience of being homeless are listened to and can influence the services on offer. A new Coordinator role will take the lead in championing the homeless voice locally.

Oxfordshire Homeless Movement (OHM) recently launched a Christmas fundraising appeal to help avoid a return to rough sleeping in the county. One of its key priorities and needs for ongoing funding is the Lived Experience Advisory Forum, also known as “LEAF”.

LEAF and Oxfordshire Homeless Movement work alongside each other to ensure that lived experience representation is at the core of ending rough sleeping in Oxfordshire. LEAF’s panel members have real-world experience of homelessness, and work in equal partnership with charities and local councils to inform the development and design of homelessness services, both existing and future. This model is known as ‘co-production’, and provides the chance to learn from other projects working in a similar way in other parts of the country.

Oxford-based homelessness charity The Gatehouse will host a new LEAF Coordinator role in partnership with Aspire, and the appointee, who has a background in co-production and research, will start in post in January 2021. The role will allow capacity and support for such integral work to develop and flourish.

Gatehouse Project Director Katrina Horne says: “OHM recognises that people with lived experience of homelessness bring an expertise to the sector that is unique, and focuses on people who are experiencing homelessness as individuals who have a diverse range of needs and life experiences. LEAF has already been involved with service planning, service delivery, research, policy change and decision making with services and commissioners in Oxford. LEAF has big plans for 2021, which will be made possible by the appointment of a dedicated coordinator.”

Being part of LEAF also brings people with lived experience an increase in confidence and skills, as well as an opportunity not just to be heard, but to be involved in an authentic and empowering way.

OHM Chair Jane Cranston says: “We are incredibly proud to have supported the development of the Lived Experience Advisory Forum. Crucially, the monthly meetings are chaired and developed by the participants. Although COVID-19 has presented challenges to this model of work – for example, not everyone can access the internet – the momentum and motivation of the group has not changed. LEAF now has representation on the OHM Steering Group, and the Movement has made a long-term commitment to listening to the voice of lived experience.”

Nikki Aitchison, Head of Employment Development Projects at Aspire, says: “COVID-19 has highlighted some of the structural issues affecting people experiencing homelessness – for example, I’m pretty sure we recognise how important it has been since March for us being online and staying connected, but going digital was a barrier to people wanting to be involved in LEAF. Lack of confidence and digital competencies, as well as a lack of finances, is highlighting the need for us to pull together as a collective, to not only bring in the people experiencing homelessness to listen and learn, but to look at the wider factors as well. I hope the involvement of OHM and all of the partners will enable this.”

If you would like more information on how you could become a member of LEAF, or how LEAF could help co-produce your service please contact OHM Project Manager Yvonne Pinner at hello@oxfordshirehomelessmovement.org.

Donate to our Christmas appeal

OHM is running its third Christmas appeal to help raise funds to find lasting solutions to homelessness and fill the gaps that other services can’t, including the involvement of LEAF and tackling wider structural issues.

Between Tuesday 8 December and Friday 8 January, Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) is pledging to match the first £20,000 of donations to OHM.

OCF’s pledge to double the difference will apply to both one-off and repeat donations made during the Christmas period. When eligible for Gift Aid, a typical £30 donation will be worth £67.50.

You can donate online at www.oxfordshirehomelessmovement.org/donate or by sending a cheque to Oxfordshire Homeless Movement, PO Box 941, Oxford OX1 9TQ.

Oxfordshire Homeless Movement

Oxfordshire Homeless Movement is a partnership of the many organisations working to ensure that nobody has to sleep rough on the streets of Oxford.

Yvonne Pinner

Project Manager

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