Call for all to work together to solve rising homelessness

27 January 2017

EDEN HOUSING ASSOCIATION

Mucking in: the bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, leads a turf-cutting ceremony to launch the start of work on a new housing scheme at Coniston, earlier this month. Mitre Housing Association (of which Bishop Newcome is president) is to build ten affordable Lake District homes

Mucking in: the bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, leads a turf-cutting ceremony to launch the start of work on a new housing scheme at Co...

HOMELESSNESS, which is continuing to rise, will not be solved unless churches, charities, and the Government collaborate, housing charities have said this week.

Housing Justice is among the signatories to a new statement, Action and Advocacy: A Christian response to homelessness, which was launched on Homeless Sunday, last weekend.

The signatories speak of their “absolute dismay at the continued rise in homelessness”. Official figures suggest that the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen for the sixth successive year, to 4134 in 2016, more than double the 2010 figure.

“We believe that only by working together with all our colleagues in the homelessness sector — local authorities, central Government, and with homeless people themselves — can we provide what is truly needed,” they write. “It is only through such strong and robust partnership and collaboration that we will end the scourge of homelessness, and ensure that no one need sleep on the streets.”

The statement draws attention to the practical help offered by Christians and churches, including the winter night shelters offered by more than 500 churches and faith organisations, and hosting more than 750 people each night. The signatories urge the Government to make a commitment to regular meetings and briefings with a group of Christian leaders, to ensure that this contribution is “recognised and fully realised”, and for the creation of a “comprehensive, long-term national strategy to end homelessness in England” in addition to local-authority initiatives.

The signatories pledge to be an “independent voice holding local and central Government accountable for the levels of homelessness”.

Statistics from local authorities show that the number of homelessness cases remains below a peak in 2003-04, but is up by 42 per cent since 2009-10. A House of Commons briefing suggests that the most important factor behind the rise is a “continuing shortfall in levels of new house building”. A report last year by the Communities and Local Government Committee called for a “renewed, cross-departmental government strategy”.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill is currently going through Parliament. It creates a new duty on councils to assist, within 56 days, those threatened with homelessness. Last week, the Government announced that councils would receive additional funding of £48 million to help them deliver “new and expanded services”. This weekend, The Guardian reported that several councils were preparing to axe housing-support services, including hostel beds, refuges, and sheltered housing, as they struggled with budget cuts.

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