Safe as Houses homelessness conference starts on Tuesday – book a place to join



Martin Gavin

Safe as Houses is the title of Homeless Network Scotland’s annual conference for 2020. The online event will explore what is needed to build forward from the past eight months to make sure that homelessness services – and people directly affected – are not left carrying the can for a global health pandemic. Head of external relations, Martin Gavin, looks ahead to the event.

Necessity is the mother of innovation, they (don’t quite) say – that’s the case for the team here at Homeless Network Scotland as we harness the latest online technology to deliver this year’s Scottish homelessness conference. Over three days, choose from a menu of live lounge panel discussions featuring people with their own homelessness stories; insight from sector leaders and politicians; recent learning as we navigate the pandemic and the latest practice updates. We promise there will be no webinar fatigue here.

From Tuesday 20 to Thursday 22 October, Safe as Houses presents a choice of seminars and interactive online sessions – pick-and-mix the elements that interest you most, creating the conference you want while getting on with the day job when you are not taking part.

There will also be an opportunity to put questions directly to the person responsible for Scottish Government homelessness policy. In total, Safe as Houses offers more than 25 different sessions within five themes. Booking is quick and easy on our website. A special thanks this year to our event partners, Bethany Christian Trust and The Salvation Army.

Although unable to meet friends and colleagues in person as planned this autumn we felt it was essential to find a way to connect and reflect on what we know, what we’ve learned and how we can build a shared understanding from here of what’s really needed to resolve homelessness. Most of all, we want to celebrate the extraordinary efforts across all areas – from colleagues on the frontline walking alongside people during the crisis, to policy makers shifting focus to protect those most at risk.

As we all continue to move through the personal and professional challenges posed by a global pandemic, the links between housing and health – personal and community safety – have been laid bare. From the very start of lockdown two urgent questions were posed: how can you stay at home if you don’t have one? And how can you be safe at home if that home isn’t safe?

Our five themes for Safe as Houses are:

  • a global pandemic: drawing out international learning and comparisons on responses to homelessness
  • whatever the problem, the answer is relationships: exploring the role of relationships as the lynchpin for professional and personal wellbeing
  • a day in the sun for good law and policy: building from recent successes to ensure it is upheld on the ground every time and for every person
  • same storm, different boat: redressing the unfairness at the root of homelessness and the impact of the pandemic and its aftermath
  • if we don’t all row, the boat won’t go getting alongside each other – in all our different roles – to make a collective impact on homelessness.

You will receive exclusive access to the specialist conferencing platform, Crowdcast, which allows our team to reach out further and more creatively to ensure you have your own, unique experience. Simply book a place for the themes or individual sessions that interest you, quickly create a profile and log in, it’s that easy.

Following our opening address, we get straight to the heart of the matter on Tuesday with guest speakers from around the world. We will be asking what has impressed the panel about Scotland’s response – or not? Meet Dr Indu Prakash Singh, City Makers Mission International, Delhi; Janine Kellett, head of homelessness at the Scottish Government and Juha Kaakinen, chief executive of Y-Saatio, Finland, among other distinguished panel members.

The Safe as Houses conference is shaping up to be a pivotal moment as we go into winter, lining up a new approach to emergency accommodation in the cities and scaling up plans for rapid rehousing across Scotland. Don’t take our word for it, here is what some of our speakers and guests are saying.

Pat McArdle CEO of Mayday Trust: “Genuinely delighted to be part of this conference with all the key stakeholders in the room bravely discussing the real-world issues raised by people themselves who are going through the toughest of times.”

Lydia Stazen, director of the Institute of Global Homelessness: “The past six months have accelerated global efforts to end homelessness and taught us so much about what works – and what doesn’t – in ending homelessness. Safe as Houses provides a platform to adapt and tailor those lessons for Scotland.”

Sir Andrew Cubie, chair of the Housing First Advisory Group: “In this most difficult year, and as we approach a winter of acute concern, I welcome the opportunity of gathering folk together again, who are dedicated to bringing homelessness, as we know it, to an end.” 

On the agenda for Tuesday is some speed training from our change lead, Peter Anderson. ALL IN, by Homeless Network Scotland, launches a new Learning Lounge at the conference including an expanded programme designed around the way people are working today. Full details and how to book can be found on our website from Tuesday.

The newly updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan is the backdrop to one of the cornerstone sessions at the conference on Wednesday, an interactive Q&A with Kevin Stewart MSP, minister for local government, housing & planning. The political theme continues that day with ‘Taking the ‘P’ Out of Homelessness’, a lively panel discussion with representatives from all five of Scotland’s political parties in Parliament invited. The final day kicks off after lunch with a spoken extract from a new book by award-winning journalist and author Mary O’Hara before moving onto a session on framing homelessness to improve understanding and grow change in society.

With too much to list here, full details of all sessions at this year’s Scottish homelessness conference, Safe as Houses, are available on our website. We hope you can join us, and the hundreds of delegates who have already booked a place, to share your experience of housing and homelessness in Scotland during the pandemic and help to shape what happens next.

We can’t wait to see you at the conference. Finally, we would love to be able to say lunch will be provided, but I think this year that would be a logistical challenge too far. Please, bring your own.

Booking is essential, reserve your place at Scotland’s annual homelessness conference and quickly set up a profile ahead of the event to join on Tuesday morning from 9:45.



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