Services must unite to deal with homelessness

My weekly article for the Gazette & Herald: “Services must unite to deal with homelessness”

This is ahead of a speech I hope to give tomorrow morning in support of a new strategy for dealing with the complicated issue of homelessness.

Read my full article here:

New figures show the homelessness crisis is continuing to grow, with local authorities accepting 10% more homelessness applications in the last quarter than a year ago. In Wiltshire, the official figures show that 72 households were registered as homeless in June this year in our community, with many more likely to be unregistered.

There is an urgent need to address the factors driving up homelessness, the availability of suitable housing and high private rents are crucial factors, but more and more houses alone will not solve the problem. The causes of homelessness go much deeper. All public services must be geared up to respond to the personal needs of every individual at risk of homelessness or who is homeless.

Some factors and experiences can make people more vulnerable to homelessness. These include poor physical health, mental health problems, alcohol and drugs issues, bereavement, experience of care, and experience of the criminal justice system. Other factors can include poverty, inequality, housing supply and affordability, unemployment, welfare and income policies.

The issues of homelessness are not simply isolated to those who are homeless. A new report from the homelessness charity Crisis has revealed £370 million could be saved by investing in measures that prevent homelessness. This is because less money would have to be spent on the services—the NHS, and drug, alcohol and mental health services—that are used far more by homeless people than the housed population.

On Friday (28th October) the Government’s Homelessness Reduction Bill is being discussed and I will speak strongly in favour of the plans. I will argue that we should bring together charities, councils, businesses and Government, partners in health, justice, welfare and employment to tackle the issue. I believe that those closest to the individuals, local councils and charities such as Shelter and Chippenham’s Doorway Project, are in the best position to solve these complex issues. I am pushing for additional funding to be directed to councils and charities to allow them to tackle these critical issues. We need a change in the law to prevent more people from losing their home and to make sure all homeless people can get help when they need it, while councils and charities need the funding to make this work.

You can watch Friday morning’s debate on homelessness on the BBC’s Parliament channel or online.