A new formulation

Finally, here we suggest a revised formulation  of the ‘classic’ account of a PIE, as it had evolved. We suggest that this revised version may prove more comprehensive, clearer and yet more flexible, and also more adaptable to the future stages of development of PIEs, as a framework for homelessness services and other fields.


To sum up, the original accounts of a PIE, as outlined earlier, had aimed to identify the key issues and features for a PIE, and so to inspire, but not to inhibit or constrain, new developments. In this aim, the original account seems to have been remarkably effective. This revised (or ‘evolved’) account now attempts to take into account those developments in what we might now call ‘PIE practice’ that have merged over the past five years.

One of the key developments has been the adoption of the PIE idea by so many local commissioners and funders of services. A second is the growing interest from researchers, wanting to carve out an evidence base for what works. Both these new constituencies call for a clearer specification* of what constitutes a PIE, whilst respecting the flexible, need-led creativity and customisation to circumstances, changes and opportunities that is the hallmark of a PIE- or any imaginative service. 

A third key development has been the growing internationalism in discourse on principles and practice in the psychology of homelessness; and the need therefore to reach for a vocabulary that works, not just in other countries, with other administrative systems and funding stream, but also in other languages.

This revised or ‘evolved’ version, taking into account all the issues raised in the previous sections, retains most of the basic ‘headline’ shape, and most of the terminology, of the headlines of the ‘classic’ account. The principle changes are found in the re-arrangement of what issues will fall within each headline category.


The first thing to notice in the new framework is that reflective practice, and building on relationships, is see here as central to all aspects of the work.

Staff Training and Support

So, the first thing to say is that the theme or element that we had called ‘Staff Training and Support’ is un-changed, in the revised version. That title or description remains a broadly accurate, generally adequate way to name the various elements that belong under this broad heading; and It remains essential.

 We will need to come back later to the question of what training is suitable; how it can best be delivered; and especially to what constitutes appropriate support; also who exactly we mean and include, by “staff”. But for now, the heading stands.


Psychological awareness

The next headline theme (NB: In most versions it is usually described as the first, and still normally would be), the ‘Psychological Model’ or ‘approach’, also remains in place; but for reasons that should be or become clear, we suggest the phrase 'psychological awareness', as the broader term here.  Those who see themselves as working with an explicitly psychological  ‘approach’, or a specific psychological model, can then be seen as going further along this particular line. 

Adoption of any particular psychological model as such (such as CBT and DBT, humanistic or psychodynamic models, to name just the three mentioned in the 2012 guidance) then becomes a specific instance or example of taking a psychological approach. But any other instances of adopting a psychological approach can still be offered in evidence, as part of any assessment of how far a psychological approach is implemented in practice.

Nevertheless, perhaps a more telling measure of adopting a psychological approach would still be the ability of staff to give a cogent account of why any particular model, or an eclectic mixture, or a still broader approach, is thought to be necessary and suitable for any particular client group’s needs, and appropriate as a way of working for any particular service setting. 


The spaces of opportunity 

The next headline theme, that of using “The built environment and its social spaces’, is expanded now to include the green and the ‘grown’ environment, the ‘found’ or surrounding environment, and also the service environment of pathways into and on from services.  So for this broader issue, the new term we propose is “opportunity spaces” (or "spaces for opportunity' - that is, opportunities for engagement, for interactions.

Note that this does put together several rather different elements – here we have now all the environment, including the wider service environment.  It is complex - but then, life is. So

(1) it allows a clearer place for the concerns of outreach services, which can now locate themselves more firmly within a broader PIEs framework; and

(2) similarly it allows the commissioning of services (or its equivalent in other countries’ administrative systems) to be included in the framework. That is to say, we can now not just commission services as PIEs, but ask how far that commissioning itself is PIE’d.

(3) in research terms, it allows us to consider a far wider range of research paradigms and methodologies, drawing on elements of sociology, anthropology, social policy, business and management, human geography  -  even ethology, where the notion of a habitat might shed very useful light on the way an individual, service or practice  is embedded in a life world.

This is nevertheless a little awkward, and it is a rather awkward phrase. It may not work, to put all these different kinds of 'environment' under the same heading. But the advantage is that it allows all the different kinds of services, and some broader perspectives on services such as those of senior management, commissioning and research, to all share the same place in the framework; and when we come to comparing services all operating alongside each other in any one locality, it may be helpful that they can here all use the same language. 


The two more striking changes in headline terms, however, from the classic account, are in the terms “Managing Relationships” (or simply “Relationships”) which now becomes “Rules , roles and responses” (also known as 'the 3 Rs of PIEs') ; and “Evidence Generating Practice” (or simply “Evidence”), which becomes part of a wider issue - an organisational culture of  “Learning and enquiry”.


Learning and enquiry

The changed title here aims at re-framing this element to broaden the focus both from considering and contributing to formal research evidence, and from data, to a much wider range of possible forms of feedback.   Both of those activities and forms of learning are important; but they are really more detailed examples of a much wider picture – the extent to which the organisation as a whole develops a ‘culture of enquiry’, to be constantly learning and developing.  

Whilst still valuing and encouraging more formal research – which would be highly scored in any overall assessment – it now becomes a more pervasive element: a thinking environment. It can therefore apply to commissioning and whole systems approaches as well as to the culture of any one organisation.

Being (or more correctly, constantly becoming) a learning organisation is the counterpart, at organisational or whole systems level, to the action learning and reflective practice that we see at more frontline interactions. 


Rules, Roles and Responses - ( 'the 3 Rs')

Other changes to the headline framework have largely involved expansion to encompass a wider range of related issues, with some minor re-organisation of the levels of evidence. The most radical change, however, is the re-specification of this field as being about the system’s repertoire of responses and structured relationships, or 'roles'.

The repertoire of responses of the organisation or service includes the formal rules and procedures specifying how staff and users can or should behave, and what will happen in the case of rule breaking (or, on the positive side, what happens when people do well or exceed expectations). It can cover opening hours; control of access to particular areas or services; a structure of meetings, both formal and informal. But it also covers more informal reactions, summed up as ‘the way we do things here”.

NB: The more ethical or philosophical importance of  valuing, recognising and prioritising the building of one-to-one personal relationship issues as vehicles for personal change is then part of the psychological approach. But this is complemented here, in more practical terms, by the structured relationships that the organisation of the service makes possible; and that organised, practical aspect is what is intended here.

 Hence the various roles or statuses within the service system of keyworker, volunteer, peer mentor, member (or ex-member; or suspended member, as a sanction)  ambassador; or greeter, guest, beginner, user rep, ambassador, all these can go far beyond the more legal/technical roles of resident and tenant, user, patient or client.

The organisation or service that has given careful thought to creating a mini-society that provides manageable opportunities for constructive participation, offers ways to make good any damage, provides role models, etc then has a social structure that complements the more sub-liminal messages about belonging that are built into the social spaces of the built environment. Such a service might even be said to be sociologically informed.