The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 prompted a mass, global outpouring of anger that people from Black and other minority backgrounds were still experiencing racism on a regular basis.
It also prompted organisations that claimed to be ‘anti-racist’ and pro-equalities to take a long, hard look at themselves and wonder if they were doing enough. Homeless Link was one such organisation and the answer that came back was that, despite our best intentions, there is still much work to do. With this in mind we created an internal cross-organisational Equalities and Diversity Working Group (EDWG) tasked with reviewing our approach to issues of EDI but through an anti-racist lens. The group brought energy, passion and lived experience to the task at hand and has really opened up the conversation for all staff.
At the same time, the Homeless Link Board of Trustees was asking questions about whether it was diverse enough and thinking about positive actions it could take to increase diversity in all its forms, while embracing lived experience. The Board wanted a joined up, strategic approach to addressing Equalities Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at every level of our work: in our governance; in our team; in our member organisations; for people experiencing homelessness; and in the changes we argue for from government and wider society.
With this brief in mind, we set about drafting a three year EDI strategy that set clear targets for increasing equalities, diversity and inclusion in all of these areas. That strategy, called ‘Commitment to Change’ has now been published and will form the basis of an extensive programme of positive action over the coming years. In it we pledge to take key actions, to make sure that this commitment amounts to more than just words on a page. For example, we will carry out a fundamental review of our recruitment practices to identify opportunities to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the way we advertise, interview for and select candidates, as well as ensuring current staff are regularly consulted on their experience of EDI issues in the workplace. We will also seek to improve the diversity of our trustees.
Elsewhere, we will aim to take a leadership role in championing EDI across the homelessness sector, supporting our members’ own work by producing and disseminating good practice materials, holding events and providing training, and stimulating debate and exchange of information. And we will fight to challenge poor practice and discriminatory behaviour towards people experiencing homelessness.
We recently ran a webinar on anti-racism, policy and practice in the homelessness sector from which the words of one of our staff members really stuck with me. She said: “people of colour don’t have the option of not talking about race and racism as it’s their constant lived experience.” I hope we can encourage other organisations working in the field of homelessness prevention to join us on a journey towards true equity for all citizens.