“It cannot be right in the 21st Century that people are homeless or having to sleep on our streets.” said Boris Johnson to the Evening Standard as he committed to eradicate rough sleeping by 2024. (1)
Being homeless can affect both young people and adults and families of all ages. There are many complex reasons why people from all different backgrounds end up without a proper roof over their head. For example, young people who were in the social care system without stable backgrounds or refugees can find it difficult to afford anywhere to live.
People who have experienced relationship break-ups, domestic violence, debt problems, addiction problems and unexpected life changes such as redundancy or illness are among the many individuals who can all easily find themselves without any accommodation.
“The need for social housing is now vastly outstripping supply with 1.24 million households on local authority waiting lists.” writes Joe Mellor at the London Economic (2)
Despite the efforts and promises of previous labour and conservative governments homelessness is still a massive challenge in the UK. This is especially acute in the South East of England where property prices are comparatively very high compared to average earnings and housing benefit payment amounts. Other European countries such as Denmark and Norway have invested in much more affordable social housing to erase homeless people living on the streets.
Inside Housing stated that “The prime minister announced the allocation of £263m in homelessness funding over the Christmas period, with £200m from the Flexible Homelessness Support Grant launched in 2017.” (3) More than 300 areas in England will benefit and receive money that will allow local authorities to allocate financial backing to projects that will help the public to be able to live in shared accommodation or a home of their own.
The Chichester Observer announced that the country council’s cabinet members have now confirmed that “Homeless charities across West Sussex will receive £750,000 in transition funding to help them cope with cuts to housing-related support services.” (4)
Organisations that specialise in homelessness such as Crisis have a strategy for funding several different types of projects that can help people with specific types of need gain the skills and support they need, to take steps forward and be in a position to be able to live in a place of their own.
Charities that help members of the public that find themselves living rough or between hostels know that there is often no simple answer to helping men, women and children obtain permanent adequate housing. This is because in the commercial system we have in the UK means that you need a bank account and a permanent job to rent or buy a place to live. These are not easy things for those with complex social, health and financial issues to obtain.
Generally you also need a good credit background or at least a written promise of housing benefit eligibility. This can all be very complex for those without good written and spoken English and the easy access to technology and the internet to even begin the application process successfully.
Some projects have found that initially starting with directly giving those in need their own place is the best way. Then they support individuals along the way as they rebuild their lives. This method can be the most effective way of helping a person transition into a fully stable and contributing member of society. Most people want to get life back on track and there are programmes that can lead to volunteering opportunities and then paid work and some folk go on to enjoy successful careers.
Streets of London is a registered charity that has raised funds through music concerts and commercial donations. This year they are able to invest ten £10000 grants to help develop life-skills for young homeless people, give English tuition, a re-settlement scheme for finding long term accommodation, migrant support, a rough sleepers’ space, a skills teaching catering, baking and gardening scheme and a homeless persons volunteering scheme. (5)
In addition to the transition funding West Sussex council leader “Mrs Goldsmith announced that West Sussex had successfully bid for a share of the government’s Rapid Rehousing Pathway funding, and should receive around £336,000.” (6)
Therefore with both the transition allocation and the Rapid Rehousing Pathway funding West Sussex has been given a million pound opportunity to change lives for the better and help reassign homelessness to the old history books where it belongs.
Achieving the Prime Ministers vision of eradicating homelessness forever will take a great commitment from the public and the private sector to achieve but it is vital we all do our part to support this admirable goal to the best of our abilities. This is particularly important considering the additional hardships many thousands are facing, as a result of the adverse effects of the Coronavirus and Brexit on both the economy and working families lives this year. It is going to be problematic rolling out the programmes for the homeless or any social work meetings given the new health measures to prevent spread of disease but organisations are already finding ways to adapt and move forward in this area.
Johnson’s government budget this week showed an understanding of the challenges a significant section of our society may be facing and intended to help prevent further homelessness over the coming months due to sickness and unexpected changes in income. With nearly all businesses in the country affected by the virus in one form or another this is going to be a huge test for Westminster’s leadership to protect the vulnerable. We are hopeful that if we all work together we can still achieve major progress in providing enough homes for everyone who needs them.
One silver lining for those on low incomes may be a drop in housing prices as the market will probably find it very challenging to continue with momentum as the public will be reluctant to view properties until the countries health situation gets back to normal again. Everyone can help in the short term by continuing to donate to food banks and supporting their local homeless charities whenever possible.
(1) ‘No Londoner should be sleeping rough in the 21st century’ Evening Standard 23 December 2019
(2) ’19 shocking facts about the homelessness epidemic in the UK’ The London Economic, Joe Mellor 18 March 2020 London Economic Homelessness Article
(3) ‘Johnson promises to ‘expand’ homelessness programmes’ Inside Housing Inside Housing Homelessness Article
(4) ‘Transition funding for West Sussex homeless charities facing cuts’ The Newsroom, Chichester Observer, 13 March 2020 Chichester Observer Homeless Funding Article
(5) Streets of London charity Streets of London Website
(6) ‘More transition money for homelessness charities but cuts branded ‘immoral’ Karen Dunn, Chichester Observer, 19 February 2020 Chichester Observer Homeless Funding Article