Why is Homelessness Still Such a Prevalent Issue?
There's no doubt that homelessness is becoming a more pervasive issue year on year. While rough sleeping in England has risen for the seventh consecutive year, charities are quick to highlight the fact that this sharp rise still does not capture the true level of street or hidden homelessness.
These alarming findings only leave us wondering why we're facing such an alarming crisis of homelessness. So what are they? Well, the reasons are varied and complex; and the truth is that we all subjectively have different opinions on the major causes. However, research shows that the main social causes range from the rise in house prices, welfare reforms, availability of supported housing and homelessness facilities having restricted capacity to help. These are often exacerbated by drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, mental ill-health and neglect in childhood.
Findings by the homelessness charity St Mungo’s, highlighted that 43% of individuals who slept rough for the first time suffered with alcohol or drug abuse while over 40% of individuals St Mungo’s work with have a mental health issue.
Which Approach Should be Taken to Tackle Homelessness?
Given the above, early intervention is key. While the social causes -such as availability of social housing- will ultimately only be resolved through a ‘slow progress’ of investment, some of the side effects such as neglect, abuse and mental ill-health can be prevented and addressed early on in life. The onus now lies with local agencies who take a multi-agency approach to prevention including public services such as social, health and crime services, charities, local authorities and schools. St Basils, Homeless Link, Beam and Croydon Council are all examples of such agencies. They all contribute to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in some shape or form, from spotting early signs of neglect to providing best practice coping strategies.
Is the Future Looking Brighter for Homelessness Prevention?
While it would be fair to say that currently, this government is extremely busy politically, it crucially must not forget that the Homelessness crisis is real. The positive news is that they have set a target to reduce rough sleeping by 50% come 2022 and completely eradicate it by 2027 and they are in fact showing some conscious effort to achieve this. It is investing £28m in trials of a Finnish style 'housing-first' approach to support rough sleepers across the UK, and it has introduced and brought into effect the Homelessness Reduction Act in April 2018. Furthermore, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness are encouraging a cross-governmental approach to implementing the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy 2018. The plan will help up to 6,000 homeless individuals by offering support to rapidly identify issues that led them to sleeping rough.
Ending homelessness is not impossible, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. While reducing homelessness and rough sleeping will certainly feature as a 'slow progress' in the UK, all the work that is currently being put in across the public sector will hopefully lead to the 2022 reduction and 2027 eradication goal being achieved. Organisations such as Beam are championing a technological solution to homelessness by providing an online platform for vulnerable individuals who are searching for work, while Local Authorities such as Croydon Council are partnering with community groups to provide weekly food supply at a substantially reduced cost.
Lord Shipley OBE of the APPG on Ending Homelessness and other specialists such as Rick Henderson, Chief Executive Officer at Homeless Link, and Member at National Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel and David Tovey a Shelter Ambassador, spoke at the 4th Annual Tackling Homelessness Forum on Wednesday 5th June 2019.