The OCMW (Public Centre for Social Welfare) of Ghent is responsible for the welfare of every Ghentian citizen. Every homeless person in Ghent can receive various forms of assistance, but the OCMW Gent mainly aims to take structural measures to improve the situation for homeless people. To this end, they try to tackle the underlying problems together, with the aim to guide the homeless to an home and work or useful daytime activities.
Next to the OCMW there are a lot of other organisations in Ghent supporting homeless youngsters. During this project, we also teamed up with people from Jong Gent In Actie, CAW, and many other organisations.
Over the last years, the employees of OCMW Ghent are seeing an increase in homeless young people. That is why they wanted to reach out to these youngsters, ages 17 to 21, to co-create and define concrete and effective solutions that could drastically improve their quality of life.
Within this socially very complex and sensitive context OCMW Gent asked for our expertise and set of methodologies to reach out to, question and involve these youngsters in co-creation. Our main goal was to define the most urgent problems homeless youngsters in Ghent face on a daily basis and co-create hands-on solutions to these issues.
During the first phase we spoke with homeless youngsters during in-depth interviews and focus groups. By using threshold lowering methods, we gained insight into the different aspects of their life and daily struggles. Based on these insights, we selected the most urgent issues together with the team from OCMW and other social organisations. Since this is a wicked problem, we defined multiple categories of problems: fear of being judged, strong dependency on a personal network, loneliness, vulnerability, the learning curve in public services, and so on. Though the main problem that was highlighted was the shortage of housing.
In a second phase we invited the youngsters to join us in co-creation sessions and come up with ways to find suitable housing for them. We presented the collected ideas of the youngsters to the same team from OCMW and others social organisations and selected the best ideas to iterate on.
We created a concept for a new tool that could enable the OCMW Ghent to stimulate the dialogue between homeless youngsters and their help provider. The tool is comprised out of three elements: 1. a card game to guide the conversation with the youngsters, 2. a tool for the OCMW help provider which offers an overview of all open housing positions (incl. options in the private market) and 3. a database collecting all data and preferences gathered over the years that can be used as a tool for policy makers to make strategic decisions.
Next to this concept, we also provided the OCMW Ghent with a set of guidelines, tips and tricks on how to co-create with a socially more vulnerable target group. Throughout the project we noticed how extremely difficult it is to reach these young homeless Ghentians. To ensure the continued success of this project, we wanted to help the OCMW team in finding ways to connect with this target group.
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