How the Naumann Initiative is changing lives

Hattie Llewelyn-Davies, 23 February 2021

What does it take to change a life? As all of us who are committed to providing safe, secure housing already know, having a place to call home is crucial ­– but couple that with secure employment and a chance to learn and progress, that’s how you really offer someone a future.

And it’s exactly what we’ve started doing at PA Housing, through the Naumann Initiative.

Pioneered by Kingdom Housing Association in Scotland – and named after one of the organisation's founding board members – the initiative aims to break the vicious circle of homelessness and unemployment by simultaneously giving a homeless individual a home, a job, and support with any complex needs or barriers to sustaining their tenancy.

In September last year, we became the first housing association in England to adopt the Naumann Initiative when we launched recruitment to two full-time roles – Customer Contact Advisor and Junior Communications Officer ­– through the scheme.

To be eligible, applicants had to be over 18, be able to provide proof of their eligibility to live and work in the UK and be registered as homeless with a local authority. 

The recruitment was so successful, that we ended up hiring four individuals, all of whom were incredibly strong candidates, and are now getting on wonderfully as they complete their second month at PA.

At the beginning of February, I spoke at the NHF’s Board Excellence conference’s ‘Homelessness: we can’t afford to lose momentum’ session. When I was preparing what to say, I kept coming back to the fact that the housing sector could be doing more, particularly around helping those who are trapped by their circumstances, lingering on housing waiting lists, and desperately needing a break.

So, what have I learned from watching the PA team as they’ve made the Naumann Initiative work in Leicester? There are three main points I’d urge others to consider:

  1. Senior-level ownership matters

The first thing is the importance of senior-level buy-in. At PA, it was Simon Hatchman, Resources Director, who found out about, and drove, the organisation’s adoption of the Naumann Initiative. Simon, like the majority of people who work across organisations in our sector, cares about making an impact on people’s lives.

With his backing, others at PA were able to quickly rally around the Initiative and kick the process into action.

  1. The right ‘values’ can justify action

I am really proud of what PA stands for. Our values include, “We are dedicated to finding innovative ways to involve our residents, while empowering our people to be unashamedly bold, doing whatever it takes to deliver more quality homes and services we can all be proud of”.

When you are part of an organisation that defines itself as “unashamedly bold”, you’re more likely to confidently and courageously try something new – especially when you know it’s the right thing to do.

  1. Some ideas are too good to ignore

When Kingdom HA launched the Naumann Initiative in 2019, it ring-fenced one vacancy for a Tenancy Sustainment Officer, for applicants who were homeless. Just as PA went on to discover, the calibre of applicants was so high, it eventually offered employment and tenancies to two candidates.

Eighteen months later, both individuals are still with Kingdom, and the organisation has created a further two vacancies ring-fenced for homeless applicants, and is expanding the scope of the project, working together with local employers to compile a register of businesses that will create additional “Naumann” vacancies for homeless people.

The Naumann Initiative makes an awful lot of sense for housing associations: as well as making a huge difference to individuals and their families, the organisation gains an employee with lived experience, which benefits everyone who works with them, including customers.

PA is only a few months into its Naumann Initiative, but if we can make it work, others can too. Imagine the impact the sector could have if every housing association set aside one or two roles for those who are experiencing homelessness?

Yes, it requires effort by senior leaders, recruitment teams, line managers and team members across our sector, but we can make it happen. ­My challenge to everyone is to do just that.