Last week I and my colleagues were in Brussels at a gathering of international leaders to talk about how the UK could play a more leading role in supporting countries to work more closely together.
What? No, nothing to do with that!
We were at the biennial gathering of the leaders of Homeshare organisations from around the world, organised via Homeshare International and hosted this time by the inspirational 1 Toit 2 Ages (1 roof, 2 generations) Brussels-based Homeshare organisation, which supports almost as many Homeshare households in one city as the UK supports across our 23 programmes. Our hosts put on a great programme which even included a Minister and the Queen of Belgium: Homeshare is certainly getting noticed these days.
The congress included a number of social entrepreneurs who are taking the concept of intergenerational living, and of shared living more generally, into new areas. Projet Lazare sources leases in under-occupied buildings, or where a landlord is willing to donate use of a flat for a couple of years, and sets up houseshares between students and people who have either been homeless or are risk of homelessness. These supportive households enable people to return from the limbo of homelessness or precarity to feel fully human again: hence ‘Project Lazarus’. We also heard from Homeshare International President Professor Malcolm Johnson on the learning from the popular TV show following an experiment to bring nurseries into care homes, which saw friendships being struck up between people with nearly a century between their ages.
We came home inspired, determined to grow Homeshare to match the scale it has achieved across the channel and further afield, and with lots of ideas about how the homesharing concept could be used in many new ways. It was fun trying to follow presentations in other languages – and to explore the different approaches, challenges and cultural assumptions of many different nations.
We also announced two bits of exciting news. Firstly, Shared Lives Plus will be partnering with Homeshare International, which is a volunteer-run UK-based charitable company, to build its global work and with the aim of winning new resources to ensure it can reach its potential. As part of this commitment, we will be hosting the next world congress in 2021, in Liverpool. Planning has already started and we are hugely excited.
As Brexit chaos and uncertainty continues here, I don’t think anyone knows what the UK’s relationship to the EU will be by 2021, but at least in the Homeshare world, our European and global relationships will be closer than ever!