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Homeless Network: Preventing homelessness could start at primary school

Homeless Network Annual Homelessness Conference, Tuesday 8 October, 09:00–16:15, Radisson Blu Hotel, 301 Argyle St, Glasgow G2 8DL. 09:00–16:15.

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Preventing homelessness in later life could mean routinely talking to primary school children about the issue, according to the Homeless Network, which holds its annual conference in Glasgow on Tuesday (8 October 2019).

More than 250 delegates will hear from speakers who were formerly homeless, as well as academics, health professionals and housing providers, that policies to tackle the problem will have more impact if preventing homelessness is embedded in our local communities, schools, workplaces and public services. Those unable to attend can use the hashtag #prioritiseprevention to join in the debate throughout the day.

Through personal testimony, question and answer sessions, workshops and knowledge sharing, the event will explore and identify early opportunities to prevent homelessness long before it occurs.

The conference will be addressed by Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government Housing and Planning, who will take part in a two-way question and answer session, with Mr Stewart asking delegates questions as well as answering questions from the floor. Contributions from Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public Health at Strathclyde University; Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Bill Scott, Chair of Scotland’s new Poverty and Inequality Commission, will form part of the morning session, chaired by writer and broadcaster, Stuart Cosgrove.

Opening the conference, David Ramsay, Change Lead with the Homeless Network, will talk about his own homelessness, which came about after spending time in prison following a chaotic adolescence.

He said: “There’s a gap in my life between an ordinary working class childhood in Glasgow and around 10 years ago.

“Today I have a home, a job and a family, but, in my 20s and 30s, I was all over the place and ended up in prison.

“After I became homeless, I saw for myself how the system results in people being trapped in a cycle of unsettled temporary accommodation, substance abuse and a lack of control.

“That ‘gap’ in my life is captured by the absence of any photographs of me for more than 15 years. It was as if I disappeared and then came back.

“I see now, there were loads of opportunities for someone to step in and give me the direction I needed and the tools to help me change my life. These occurred in my family environment, primary and secondary school, the NHS and even in prison.

“We are individually responsible for our own future, but young people need guidance at that critical point in life. By the time I became homeless it was too late.

“I believe most people want to help, we should strive to make preventing homelessness part of every community and workplace.

“The good work being done in Scotland to get people out of the system and into a home will have even more impact when we reduce the number of people coming into it.”

Bookings to attend the conference can be made at www.ghn.org.uk/about-us/events/ and places are free to anyone who is currently experiencing homelessness or is unwaged/not employed.

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