Interview: Viv Slack, Street Support

| Helen Sharp

We recently featured a case study about Street Support, a co-produced online resource around homelessness in cities, which aims to make it easier for people who are experiencing homelessness to get the help they need. I spoke to Co-Founder Viv Slack to learn more about the project and her experience working on it.

Tell us about what you’ve done, Viv

Street Support has helped to develop a local Homelessness Charter and there are a series of action groups which have been formed to take forward some of the work. One such action group is focusing on unsupported temporary accommodation which are often awful places. In partnership with residents and local landlords, the action group has developed a ‘Trip Advisor’ type online platform which housing workers and other referrers can use, as well as potential residents. The residents can leave a review of the accommodation and referrers can see this and decide on whether this accommodation is suitable. Next month, Street Support will begin testing this online facility.

Who has been your greatest inspiration or influence?

Joanna Macy – she comes from the environmental movement and encourages us to bring our whole self to our work, including our values and emotions. It was this idea that guided me towards the work I do now.

The best thing about what we’ve done is….

The involvement of people with lived experience and co-production. It cuts through so much bullshit and really shifts the dynamic.

What has been the biggest or best mistake you have made?

Saying ‘yes’ when my heart is saying ‘no’. When we first started, we took the opportunity to go through an accelerator scheme which focused on people wishing to take on investments. We soon realised we wanted to be not-for-profit, so the scheme was pushing us in ways which weren’t always helpful. It gave us confidence, but we went through quite a lot of pain as well!

Did anything surprise you during the project?

Everyday I’m surprised. And the realization that Street Support is not all about the ‘tech’. You need the tech quality but it’s the people and the relationships which really make it.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of doing something similar?

Focus on what’s really needed. As you can see from the Street Support case study – we started with one idea and then changed this as we spoke to people on the ground and realised what was important. It’s also vital to link in with what’s already happening and working locally.

What’s next?

As Greater Manchester is going through devolution, Street Support is hoping to extend its reach. Other cities have also contacted us and we are able to share the software with them. We will also share our learning, but it’s important that those new areas build their partnerships and connections themselves locally.

Where can we find out more?

The website is the main place to find out more about us – there’s a new section on the site with relevant articles and reports so take a look.

We are currently building the Street Support team and looking to recruit some more developers so if you’re interested in being part of the project, have a look here and get in touch.

Tell us your favourite quote…

“Life is energy in motion. Since there is nothing to hold on to, there is nothing to let go.” – Gabrielle Roth

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