St Basils: the charity taking a systemic approach to youth homelessness

  • The Birmingham-based charity wants to go beyond working with and alongside young people experiencing homelessness and try to prevent it from happening in the first place.
  • By tackling the structural as well as personal factors that drive homelessness and considering it as the ultimate exclusion, a more systemic and collaborative strategy has emerged.
  • St Basils ‘Positive Pathways frameworks’ is now being used by local and national governments to help ‘design out homelessness’ at a policy level.
  • Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils, explains why all of society, including business, has a vital and collaborative role in such a systemic strategy.
Jean Templeton

“It’s not true that we are all no more than a pay cheque away from homelessness.

“Homelessness is fundamentally an equalities issue. It's about economic inequality at all levels, with some communities and people more at risk because of the structural inequalities of race, class and gender. It’s about policy and investment choices and access to education, decent jobs, housing and support. It's about poverty which creates an inability to meet your own and your family's needs. It's about power inequality and the pressure to focus on compliance with system expectations.

“St Basils works with young people between the ages of 16 and 25 who are homeless, at risk or in conflict. We don’t believe that homelessness should be part of growing up for any young person. Our key aim is to prevent homelessness happening in the first place, if at all possible. If not, we want to prevent a re-occurrence. Homelessness is an experience, not a process, and the impacts are best understood by those who experience it. Therefore, St Basils works with and alongside young people, to help them achieve their hopes and aspirations, to use their talents and develop their skills, and help remove the barriers which get in the way of them achieving their potential.

“There are both personal and structural factors which drive homelessness. Every day, we are dealing with the presenting need, personal experiences and impacts. Our work shows us there is an increasing need to tackle the structural issues which drive homelessness. Considering homelessness as the ultimate exclusion aids bigger picture thinking about how we can improve our systems, structures and environments to make them more inclusive. If we can try to keep people in the universal domain that we all occupy, then we will reduce homelessness.

“St Basils developed our Positive Pathway frameworks back in 2012 and refreshed most recently in 2020. They are a free resource and enable us all to look at our structures and systems and consider what we can do to help keep people in the universal domain, in a safe home, in education or employment, in good health and in nurturing, safe relationships and communities. How do we know who may be struggling and likely to fall out of those protective environments and how do we provide early, personalised help to keep them in or enable them to minimise the crisis and disruption to their lives? By reducing risks which lead to exclusion and improving protective factors which promote inclusion across our systems, we can reduce homelessness.

“The positive pathway models have been promoted by successive governments as national frameworks to prevent youth homelessness and adopted as the template for our regional WMCA Homelessness Taskforce and Birmingham’s Homelessness Prevention strategy. Our collective aim in the West Midlands is to ‘design out homelessness’. That involves all of us, including business, academia, public, voluntary and community sectors, working together. With Business in the Community, the Taskforce has developed a toolkit for businesses to explore their role in designing out homelessness. With Birmingham Voluntary Services Council, we have designed a Commitment to Collaborate toolkit for any organisation or partnership to use the framework.

“Joining the Advisory Board of the Centre for Responsible Business was a brilliant opportunity to support the work and help shape the thinking about what difference responsible businesses can make. It has been wonderful to learn more about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the research undertaken by the Centre. The SDGs are not just words on paper which allow us to hold others to account. They require understanding, local translation and co-development with those who know and feel what the alternative means.

“We need good strategy, but above all we need collaborative ‘strategic doing’. We need an inclusive universal space which works for all.”

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils