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Commonweal supporting another four housing initiatives as part of its Call for New Ideas 2022

19 August 2022

Simon Community NI 1
Simon Community NI 2

Commonweal Housing has agreed to fund four new imaginative feasibility studies for housing solutions to social injustices. The new partnerships are part of Commonweal’s Call for New Ideas 2022, the charity’s partnership programme established to test new ideas that seek housing-based solutions to social injustices.

The Call for New Ideas 2022 partners are:

With Commonweal’s support, Trevi will test the viability of an alternative funding model for women-centered and women-only housing to address the lack of women-only emergency accommodation accessible in the South West area. The model aims to offer vulnerable women safe housing away from a prominently male-ordinated hostel environment, which often fails to address women’s needs.

Hannah Shead, Chief Executive Officer at Trevi, said: “Trevi is delighted to be the recipient of Commonweal funding to carry out a much-needed feasibility study to explore an alternative funding model to develop and operate women-only accommodation for vulnerable women. Thanks to Commonweal’s support, this vital piece of work will explore and publish a potential housing cost model that will at long last offer women who experience extreme disadvantage the opportunity to escape male Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), giving them the safe and nurturing space they need to move forward in life.”

Commonweal will provide support and funding to homeless charity Simon Community Northern Ireland who want to convert an existing male oriented hostel into a women-only housing provision to help address the lack of such services in the region. The study will evaluate how safe and trauma-informed women-only hostels can support homeless single women with complex needs, whilst also exploring the feasibility of an accompanying step down accommodation service to help women transition back into the community and independent living.

Karen McAlister, Head of Research & Development at Simon Community NI, said: “Simon Community NI is delighted to be funded by Commonweal to undertake a feasibility study that will explore the viability of transforming a male dominated hostel to a female-only space, in addition to exploring options of purchasing step down accommodation specifically for women. With thanks to this funding, we will look to provide spaces for women to come to terms with their situation while receiving the support needed to make positive steps for their futures.”

The leading homeless charity Depaul Northern Ireland will investigate the viability of step-down accommodation for women leaving prison with Commonweal’s support. The service aims to provide women prison leavers, across Northern Ireland with much-needed, settled housing and specialist support to help them establish their new life upon release and break the cycle of re-offending.

Deirdre Canavan, Senior Services Manager at Depaul Northern Ireland, said: “Depaul is delighted to have been awarded a grant from Commonweal through the Call for New Ideas. The funding will support a feasibility study that will address the impact of incarceration on women in Northern Ireland by exploring the potential of developing a bespoke housing service for women leaving the criminal justice system. Through the feasibility study, we aim to identify the key supports that women with a criminal record need in the community and this will help us to design a service around these unique needs.”

Finally, Commonweal will support Servol Community Services to evaluate the feasibility of housing in collaboration with criminal justice services. The proposed project would support low-medium risk prison leavers with diagnosed mental health conditions, through the provision of safe housing upon release and support to help improve mental health and reduce re-offending.

Gaynor Brooke, Head of Services at Servol Community Services, said: “The team at Servol are very excited to be working with Commonweal on this new initiative. The feasibility study will explore how we can develop a specialist integrated approach to resettlement for people living with enduring mental health conditions who are leaving prison. We believe an effective resettlement strategy is likely to lead to greater engagement with the resettlement plan as well as greater compliance if it is developed in consultation with the offender.”

The Call for New Ideas programme is now in its third year, following successful previous iterations. As part of the Call for New Ideas 2021, Commonweal funded seven feasibility studies, with one –Northern Ireland homelessness charity East Belfast Mission – moving onto the project development stage. Five of the seven initial partnerships are still undergoing their feasibility study process, while one feasibility study with North London based C4WS will move into project development separate from Commonweal.

Commonweal was especially interested in ideas related to its priority areas of work:

  • The criminal justice system
  • Violence against women and girls (VAWG)
  • Systemic injustices that occur at points of transition in people’s lives

The charity will support successful feasibility studies from inception through to full project development and exiting the project at the end of its life cycle. It will support partners in sharing learnings through media, policy work, and project replication.

At this stage, organisations carry out a short-term feasibility study to establish and test the viability of their idea and proposed model. This initial study will be used to determine whether the idea could operate as a viable and impactful property-based pilot project, which Commonweal may provide housing and funding for.

Amy Doyle, Deputy Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “This year’s Call for New Ideas partnerships sit right at the centre of Commonweal’s mission to test housing-based solutions for vulnerable individuals in need of housing and support. We are excited to begin supporting our new partners to investigate their innovative housing models to challenge social injustices people across the country face.”

Learn more about Commonweal and read the news here.