Specialist EDI support is needed for people who have experienced homelessness

    In 2023, homelessness specialist Concrete, part of HDN member Honeycomb Group, launched their first specialist LGBTQ+ hub – Phoenix. The service, which includes a dedicated LGBTQ+ Caseworker, provides specialist housing and support to local people who have experienced homelessness, alongside gender and sexuality struggles.

    This year, the service expanded to include Phoenix House, a Stoke-based scheme which provides a home for three Phoenix customers, complete with en-suite rooms, communal spaces and on-site support available from an LGBTQ+ Caseworker.

    Operations Manager, Dean Marsh, heads up Phoenix. Passionate about improving EDI both internally and externally, he attended the 2024 Stonewall Workplace Conference last month. Held in London, the annual event is an opportunity for professionals to share successes and learn about best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace.

    Dean has shared more about his experience at the Stonewall conference, and how it’s identified strengths and opportunities across his work with Phoenix, and Honeycomb Group’s EDI journey.

    “We know from our work that homelessness can happen to absolutely anybody. That’s why at Concrete we are so committed to making sure that our services are accessible to absolutely everybody – including those from the LGBTQ+ community.

    Our approach is never ‘one size fits all’ so I knew that we had to deliver something really unique and specialist for our LGBTQ+ customers, which is why Phoenix was born.

    Throughout the process of launching Phoenix, I did a lot of research into Stonewall. Their values are completely in line with what I want to achieve for our LGBTQ+ customers at Concrete. When I heard about their Workplace Conference, I knew I had to attend.

    The most incredible thing was sitting in a room with over 200 likeminded people, from all over the world. The experience opened my eyes to the EDI journeys of other organisations, including larger companies such as Starbucks and Microsoft. While we are miles apart in size, I think it’s still important to draw on that expertise and bring it back to Honeycomb Group to really lay those foundations on which we can build and develop.”

    The conference left Dean feeling inspired about future LGBTQ+ support services in Stoke-on-Trent.

    “The future is really bright for our LGBTQ+ services. With my work at Concrete, I’m now looking into the next steps of Phoenix House, and how we can expand and develop that. Nationwide there is such a need for specialist housing of this kind, so it’s fantastic to be able to provide that in our local area.

    For me, EDI is all about education and continual development. Laws and best practice change so frequently, so we really need to keep our finger on the pulse and keep EDI at the forefront of everything we do, both internally and across all of our services.

    For our own EDI journey at Honeycomb Group, the conference really helped me to clearly see not only our strengths, but also where we have opportunities to develop even further. Speaking to people from other organisations and learning about what has worked so well for them gives makes me really excited to have those conversations and share ideas with teams right across the Group.”

    About the Author.

    Dean Marsh is Senior Operations Manager at Stoke-on-Trent based homelessness specialist Concrete, part of Honeycomb Group. Dean oversees Concrete’s community housing provision, as well as leading on Phoenix, the specialist’s dedicated LGBTQ+ support and housing service, which launched in 2023.

    Dean is passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion, both for his customers who are accessing vital support services, and his colleagues in the workplace.

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