The Future Hostel – what do we know about how hostels can help end homelessness?

Helen Mathie

Thursday, 28 June 2018 
 

   
     
    

The review into the future funding of supported housing has
required Government and the sector to appraise how hostels are working
across the country to help end people’s homelessness.

The role of hostels has come under the spotlight in recent months.
The review into the future funding of supported housing has required
Government and the sector to appraise how hostels are working across the
country to help end people’s homelessness. The work currently being
undertaken by the Rough Sleeping Taskforce, which will inform the
Government’s new Rough Sleeping Strategy, has also brought attention to
what has historically been one of the country’s core responses to
homelessness.

This focus has largely been welcomed. Many of our members provide
valuable hostel-based services that help people recover from
homelessness. Providing much more than just a roof, hostels have come to
play a key role in both delivering and coordinating the wide range of
support an individual might need to leave their homelessness behind. The
recognition of this, and calls to protect hostels within the
discussions about the future funding of supported housing have made
clear the need to ensure hostels can continue to make these vital
contributions.

But there have also been many questions raised. How do we know, for
example, that hostels really make a difference? Compared to approaches
like Housing First which has an excellent international evidence base,
there is limited data and research about hostels. The term itself is
problematic – ‘hostels’ have changed considerably over recent years, and
there is incredible diversity amongst provision. As we look to future
solutions to ending homelessness, it’s important we understand how
hostels can be effective, the outcomes they achieve, and what enables
them to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

The Future Hostel_June 2018.pdf | 1429K
 

Future Hostel report

Our report, the Future Hostel, attempts to answer some of these
questions. It draws on findings from ten in-depth case studies of
hostels across England and analyses data from Homeless Link’s online
database of homelessness services. It explores the range of approaches
and interventions that are covered by the term “hostels,” and focuses on
key principles, learning points, and best practice.

The research identified many of the internal attributes that were key
to providing effective support – for example taking a personalised
approach; how staff culture can facilitate positive relationships with
residents; and the need for flexibility within hostel management. It
also looked at the role hostels play in connecting with the wider system
– such as facilitating access to move-on, health, and employment
services.

There were, of course, many challenges – hostels reported they were
trying to meet increasing levels of demand with diminishing resources,
which in some cases had negatively impacted the range of services they
were able to deliver. Funding pressures meant many projects were
currently understaffed. Residents disliked the rigidity in some hostels’
rules and regulations, which were counterproductive to their recovery.

It’s important that these and other limitations are recognised and
addressed as the future hostel develops, and that steps are taken to
better understand and measure the outcomes achieved. Our research
highlighted that, for many individuals, hostels and the staff who work
in them were what made the difference to ending their homelessness:

Alongside the other approaches and interventions that we know are
crucial to ending homelessness, we will be continuing to support the
case for a sustainable future for hostels so that they can be effective
in meeting this goal for many years to come. 

The Future Hostel report draws on findings from ten in-depth case studies
of hostels across England and analyses data from Homeless Link’s online
database of homelessness services.

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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