Last Sunday, Homelessness Sunday, Oasis Community Housing hosted a fringe event at the Labour Party conference 2023 in Liverpool to discuss research and recommendations surrounding the link between trauma and homelessness.

David Smith, CEO of Oasis Community Housing was joined on the panel by Kim McGuinness, Police and Crime Commissioner; Natalie Robson, former resident of one of our supported housing projects; Mike Amesbury MP, Shadow Minister for Building Safety and Homelessness; and Paula Barker MP, Shadow Minister for Devolution and the English Regions.

One of the academics involved in the research, Adele Irving from Salford University, attended the event along with representatives from Homeless Link and around 40 other attendees.

Trauma, homelessness and policy change

The event began with David Smith introducing the research Oasis Community Housing commissioned from Northumbria University, which found that 94% of people experiencing homelessness have experienced trauma.

Following a short video, each of the panellists spoke, with Shadow Ministers Paula Barker MP and Mike Amesbury MP speaking first. Paula Barker explained that she believed a ‘trauma-informed approach must be the bedrock of delivering on this agenda (of tackling homelessness).’

Mike Amesbury MP recently became the Shadow Minister for Building Safety and Homelessness, after taking on the role that was previously held by Paula Barker MP.

Committing to continuing Paula’s work thus far, Mike spoke more broadly about homelessness and access to housing, insisting that, ‘we need to make genuinely affordable housing and supported accommodation, and temporary accommodation should be temporary.’

There was an emphasis from both Paula and Mike that there was a clear need to ‘break the cycle of homelessness’ by ensuring adequate attention is paid to tackling trauma.

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuiness, highlighted the need for prevention and treating trauma on a case-by-case basis. She suggested that, ‘we need to look through the lens of people’s experiences’ when supporting people experiencing homelessness.

‘You can understand the trauma, but then ask the question: how do we treat this on an individual level – we have to take into consideration people’s experiences.’

Natalie’s story

A key member of the panel was Natalie Robson, who is a former resident at one of Oasis Community Housing’s supported accommodation projects and is now a volunteer chaplain at the project that once supported her. Natalie shared her experience of homelessness during the event.

After her parents split up, when she was aged just 14, Natalie found herself with no place to call home. She explained: ‘My parents couldn’t agree on living arrangements so we would put all of our stuff in bin bags and move from week to week… Relationships broke down and at 19 years old I had lived with multiple different friends and family members, but I always wanted to go back to my mum.’

‘I suffered from poor mental health. Trauma is complex, and I blamed myself for that period of time.’

After moving on from one of Oasis Community Housing’s supported accommodation Natalie went to university and began her life after homelessness. It wasn’t until Natalie experienced another traumatic episode later in life when she realised it was actually the initial trauma of being homeless that she needed support with the most.

Natalie’s story placed the discussion in the room around trauma and homelessness into context, and reiterated the need to recognise trauma and the need to support those who have experienced it.

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