28 Jul 2022

An inspiring visit to Hightown Housing Association

Last week, along with CIH UK director of policy and external affairs James Prestwich, and CIH head of policy and external affairs Rachael Williamson, I spent a day at Hightown Housing Association in Hemel Hempstead.  We were visiting to talk about Hightown’s homelessness prevention work. Hightown are founding members of Homes for Cathy, a national group of housing associations and charities working together with a mission to end homelessness.  Members of the alliance sign up to nine commitments, developed with Crisis, which guide and benchmark best practice within their organisations. These commitments are:

  • To operate flexible allocations and eligibility policies which allow individual applicants' unique set of circumstances and housing history to be considered.
  • To offer constructive solutions to applicants who aren't deemed eligible for an offer of a home.
  • To not make any tenant seeking to prevent their homelessness, homeless (as defined by the Crisis plan definition).
  • To commit to meeting the needs of vulnerable tenant groups.
  • To work in partnership to provide a range of affordable housing options which meet the needs of all homeless people in their local communities.
  • To ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into.
  • To contribute to ending migrant homelessness in the areas housing associations operate.
  • To lobby, challenge and inspire others to support ending homelessness.

Hightown are rightly proud of their social purpose principles and their social value impacts. It was fantastic to hear how the Homes for Cathy commitments are embedded into everything that Hightown do, and how Hightown are striving to meet these commitments in general needs housing and in care and supported housing.  The tenancies sustainment and financial inclusion support available to residents who need this is clearly having extremely positive outcomes and could not be more needed in the current climate with cost of living crisis growing daily. It was also really positive to hear about the great partnership work going on with local authorities and others in the area.

The definite highlight of the visit for me though was getting out to visit some of the schemes. There we were lucky enough to meet some of the residents and speak with members of staff delivery homeless prevention services. We visited a Housing First scheme, a young people’s semi-independent living scheme for 16 to 18 year olds, and a scheme for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Recognition and understanding of the ongoing impacts of past traumas that service users may have experienced was evident in the inspiring trauma-informed approach of staff.  Members of the team clearly strive to build therapeutic, non-judgemental, validating relationships. Challenging roles at times no doubt, but the dedication of these professionals to positively engage and support service users to equipment them with the tools for successful independent living really shone through to me.  

To celebrate the wealth of innovative and successful housing-led approaches to prevent homelessness being delivered by housing associations, CIH, alongside the National Housing Federation and Homes for Cathy, recently launched a compendium of good practice. The compendium highlights the multitude of good practice taking place across England, where housing associations are taking proactive and supportive action to work with and for their tenants and others to prevent homelessness. 

Download the compendium

If you would like the CIH policy team to come and see your work, please drop us a line at policyandpractice@cih.org 

Written by Hannah Keilloh

Hannah Keilloh is a policy and practice officer at CIH.