Homelessness

The Reasons Why Homelessness Policies Aren’t Working

Homelessness is on the rise. In this post I present some reasons on how this happened. And more importantly what we can all do to tackle his terrible trend.

If it seems to you that there are more people sleeping on the streets these days than there used to be, you’re right. Statistics published last week show that sleeping rough in England has risen for the seventh consecutive year.

According to official statistics, there were 4,751 rough sleepers in England in autumn 2017 – a rise of more than 400, year-on-year.

These figures represent the number of people sleeping rough on a ‘typical night’ and are the highest since current records began. Rough sleeping has now risen by 169 per cent since 2010, when 1,768 people were counted sleeping rough.

This is up 15% on the previous year. And:

since 2010 rough sleeping estimates show an increase of 169%.

It’s interesting to note that 2010 was the year the Tories started imposing austerity. In fact, homelessness has gone up:

134 per cent since the Conservatives came to power.

Why? Well:

A string of Government welfare changes have led to the dramatic increase, according to the organisations charged with tackling the crisis.

These have exacted an awful toll. Factor in measures such as:

  • the reduced funding for homeless hostels and other support services,
  • the arbitrary benefits cap, and
  • the rise in private rents.

And it’s little wonder we find ourselves in this situation. In London, for example:

one in every 59 people are homeless … Of the top 50 local authority homelessness “hotspots”, 18 were in Greater London, with Newham, where one in 27 residents are homeless, worst hit.

Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting that:

Labour government would immediately purchase 8,000 properties across the country to give immediate housing to those people who are currently homeless

But I’m not so sure that he has given much thought to the incentives that would be created by such a move? Has he really considered what the real root causes are behind homelessness? At a basic level, there are two sorts of rough sleeper:

  1. the short-term homelessness. These people are placed temporary accommodation fairly quickly. So, accommodation isn’t the problem for this group.
  2. the long-term homelessness. This group may suffer from addictions and /or mental health issues. Here the difficulty isn’t finding them a home, its helping them to keep it.

Ministers must tackle these deeper causes to help both groups. Including the much larger group of people stuck in in poor, temporary housing. But, first things first, they have an immediate priority to get people off the streets.

The homelessness rise upwards during the 1980s and early 1990s helped bring about the Tories’ electoral defeat. It reinforced the perception of them as selfish and uncaring, and the same could happen again. If citizens keep seeing the awful sight of people sleeping outside in Winter, they’ll turn their electoral fury on those who failed to fix the problem.

Photo by Cosmopolita. on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Leave a Reply