It comes as no surprise that the number of households found to be homeless by local authorities has increased in the past year. However, for me, the quarterly statutory homelessness statistics, published yesterday by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), raise questions about what the homelessness sector needs to do next to reduce the number.
Mike Barrett is Chief Executive Officer at Porchlight
30 June 2016
DCLG’s report says that local authorities prevented more than 200,000 people from becoming homeless. This is a welcome achievement, but I fear that it will become increasingly difficult for councils to find resources to carry out their vital work just to prevent homelessness. It will be even harder for them to provide the further help and assistance that homeless people need to move towards a sustainable and happy life.
When it comes to addressing the problem of single non-priority homelessness, an area we know a lot about at Porchlight, it’s up to housing associations to help find the solutions. But we need the political will to make it happen and that means support for policies that provide certainty to the people experiencing homelessness and the sector that provides for them. I share the Federation’s call for the Government to remove the threat of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap.
I’m privileged to lead Porchlight, a Kent-based charity that has been working for 40 years to support people who have fallen or been pushed into homelessness. I’m part of a team of people – talented, committed and honourable people – who design and deliver the type of services that are essential if we’re going to make any headway against homelessness.
Our adolescent support service works with children as young as 10 to address issues including school non-attendance, problematic relationships with families or carers, low self-esteem, anger disorders and inappropriate behaviour. We recognise these issues in the life histories of the adult homeless clients that we work with, both on the streets and in our accommodation projects – clients whose life chances could have been improved with early intervention.
Our teams work with people in communities, helping them to manage any issues that are putting them at risk of homelessness. By offering integrated care and support to people experiencing mental ill health, we can prevent them from reaching crisis point and becoming another homelessness statistic.
We’ve designed our housing services to help people deal with the trauma that makes it so hard to break the cycle of homelessness. We show them that change is possible, supporting them towards a sustainable life with decent accommodation, a job or training and away from the expensive interventions needed to treat people who have been allowed to descend into a life of poverty and destitution.
Homelessness is a life shortening experience that can be prevented in the majority of cases, but organisations like Porchlight need political support to continue to help people experiencing homelessness. Single homelessness is on the rise, but we can make a significant impact on statistics like those published yesterday and an even bigger difference to vulnerable people’s lives.