Every day, The Connection at St Martin’s works with people experiencing homelessness to help them get off, and stay off, the streets. Last year alone, we supported over 2,600 people to turn their lives around.
We see an average of 150 people come through our doors daily – all of whom have a different story, different experiences and different backgrounds.
However, when we’re trying to help people get that all-important roof over their head and rebuild their lives, there are consistent barriers we encounter that we struggle to overcome. It doesn’t – and should not – have to be this way.
Over the last six months, we have conducted a wide-ranging consultation with all of our service teams. We asked them to systematically identify the barriers they face to supporting people out of homelessness. Focussing on what would impact the largest numbers of people and have the greatest impact, we also set about identifying what changes are required to overcome these barriers.
This morning, we had the opportunity to share our changes with the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, who visited our centre and met with some of our clients, volunteers and staff.
Charities such as ours have a duty to give a voice to the people we help and ensure their experiences are relayed to those in power. We are determined to use our unique position in Westminster and our years of expertise to fight against homelessness and call for the policy changes we know would help people to avoid and escape homelessness.
Whilst we welcome this morning’s news that the government has announced an extra £236 million to help get rough sleepers off the street, which will certainly go some way towards addressing the issue, it falls short of the policy changes that are vitally needed to end homelessness and rough sleeping for good.
The following five changes would make a fundamental difference to people’s lives:
Five Policy Changes That Would Radically Combat Homelessness
1. Increase the availability of quality accommodation with more support for people to access and sustain tenancies
2. Improve access to mental health and addiction services to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness
3. Improve the administration of benefits so it does not hinder people’s ability to avoid or escape homelessness
4. Make benefit levels, wages and the reliability of working hours sufficient for people to afford rent, along with more affordable rent levels
5. Reform reconnection and resettlement through a national framework to represent viable options for people to escape homelessness
Our full report which explains these five changes in further detail is available here – Five Policy Changes That Would Radically Combat Homelessness.
This is just the beginning, and we know that much more needs to be done to achieve these changes.
Over the coming months, we will build robust evidence for the need for each policy change. We will work further with our service teams, partners and people experiencing homelessness, to tell the stories of their experiences.
We will identify, engage with and seek to persuade those who have the power over these policies. And we will build momentum toward these changes becoming reality.
We welcome Dame Louise Casey’s review into rough sleeping. It represents an opportunity for a new approach. It is, however, critical that the review is rooted in the experiences of people who sleep rough and the dedicated workers and volunteers who seek to help them. The insight of those who understand the problems because they see them day in and day out are vital, and it is essential that government fully get behind and resource the recommendations it leads to. We welcome the opportunity to ensure the experiences of our clients and practitioners and their recommendations are fully represented in the review.
Homelessness is not inevitable – we know that we can overcome it. To achieve this, however, will take all of us, at all levels of society, working together. Let’s start now.