Click HERE to read my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times
The causes of homelessness are complicated and involve not just jobs and house prices, but mental health, family breakdown, drug misuse and many other complicated issues. I am committed to tackling homelessness locally and I am glad that this is an issue which the Government is taking seriously nationally.
Every person sleeping rough is a tragedy. Last year around 30,000 sought help from their council for homelessness and the number of families living in temporary accommodation has increased.
This is a huge problem which needs addressing and the Government has taken encouraging steps to try and resolve this problem; importantly establishing the first cross-departmental working group on homelessness and providing almost £60 million to local councils for better quality and quantity of emergency accommodation. In March, the Government announced an additional £100 million to combat homelessness and is soon to introduce a comprehensive Homelessness Reduction Bill.
As hard as it can be to get more housing built, that is, in fact, the easier task to tackle homelessness. Far more difficult to resolve are the social barriers faced by many rough sleepers. Too often, getting people off the streets is only the first step in a long journey towards independent living.
I have close friends who have found themselves homeless and sleeping rough and have worked hard in our local community to help highlight the issue of homelessness and the great work of local charity, Doorway, who run an open access drop-in centre for those who are homeless, ‘sofa surfing’ or who have complex issues that might affect their ability to acquire and keep a tenancy. As with many social problems, it is charities like Doorway who are leading the way with the most innovative solutions. For more information on Doorway please see their website here: http://www.doorwayproject.org.uk/
Despite a lot of good work, results will not be seen straight away. What is also required is a strategy to improve opportunities and aspirations of those who have found themselves homeless; providing them with skills, work training and self-confidence to secure and hold down employment; and by reducing the time it takes to move people from emergency housing into a more permanent home and live independently.
The key challenge for Theresa May’s government – one that I am very keen to offer my full support with – will be to guarantee that funds which have been allocated to help tackle homelessness do more than simply put money towards new houses. Only by building up people, not just buildings, can we really tackle the root causes of poverty and rough sleeping.