Homeless Teenager Forces Council To Change Unfair Housing Policy

A London council has been forced to U-turn on a policy that automatically blocked 1,200 people from getting onto the housing waiting list, reports The Mirror.

Homeless teenager Shadacia White, 18, was due to take Brent Council to the High Court on Wednesday over its ‘inhumane’ policy that bans certain people from applying for council accommodation. Under the council’s terms, homeless people cannot bid on a council house, meaning many are trapped in a catch 22 of living on the streets and being unable to break free. But on the eve of the High Court hearing, the local authority overturned its housing policy. Figures from the council revealed that 1,233 homeless households who were previously deemed ineligible for council housing would now be allowed to bid for a home.

Shadacia, a university marketing student, previously won her own case to be placed on the council housing list but wanted to continue the fight to get Brent to change the policy for all homeless people. Hundreds of homeless people in the borough have been prevented from bidding for housing for the past eight years, as they were deemed ‘no priority’. Shadacia said: “We have finally achieved justice for the hundreds of homeless people in Brent who have been banned from bidding on the housing list despite being homeless and legal right to bid.”

She added: “Surely those who are homeless need a home the most, yet Brent has been illegally banning them from being placed on a housing list or placing them into the lowest priority ‘Band D’ so that they could not bid? When I won my own case I wanted to keep on fighting for all of those who are affected by this inhumane policy. While I am pleased that Brent has finally changed its policy, it really shouldn’t have taken a homeless teenage student standing up against them to change it.”

Shadacia White was originally told she would not even be considered for a house by Brent Council, despite being homeless and living in unsustainable accommodation. The young woman, who currently lives in temporary accommodation with her mother, sister and autistic brother, has been ‘sofa surfing’ throughout her childhood. She says her childhood was hard as she rarely had a home. She said: “The last few years have been a struggle and there were times when mum took us to Heathrow to sleep as we had nowhere else to go. Mum would just walk around all day in the cold. I went into school and told them what was happening and that I just wanted somewhere warm to stay and they got me a social worker and temporary accommodation.”

Brent Council’s allocation scheme currently places applicants in priority bands D to A, where A is the highest priority. People in higher priority bands out-bid people in lower priority bands who express an interest in the same property on Brent’s housing register. People in band D are not allowed to bid at all. Brent’s scheme currently says homeless applicants have ‘no priority’ and will be placed in band D, so that they can’t bid. The only exception to this is if Brent had accepted a ‘main housing duty’ towards a homelessness applicant, such as a serious enough health condition.

The law says Brent has to give ‘reasonable preference’ to homeless people even if they are not owed the ‘main housing duty’, meaning that the current policy is unlawful according to lawyers at Osbornes Law. Sam O’Flaherty, specialist housing litigation solicitor, said: “As a result of Shadacia’s claim, not only have Brent agreed to change their policy by February 2022, but they have also agreed to a series of measures to ensure that homeless households do not continue to be deprived of their right to bid for social housing in the meantime, and for previously affected homeless households to be contacted and given an opportunity to join the Housing Register and bid if they are still eligible. Regrettably, I am not confident this would have been achieved without Shadacia having fought this all the way to the High Court.”

Brent Council says that it did not know about the issue with their policy until Shadacia’s solicitors wrote to them on March 11, 2021 raising it. The judicial review proceedings in the High Court have now been put on hold until March 15 to allow Brent to carry out its promised changes. A Brent Council spokesperson said: “In January of this year, we started a review of our allocations policy in order to make some technical clarifications following changes to government guidelines.”

“Ms White’s lawyers drew our attention to the fact that we should have given her reasonable preference on our housing register during the eight-week period in which the council is statutorily obliged to work with the family to try to relieve their homelessness. We took action immediately and included this amendment in the proposed changes to the allocations policy, which are going through the council’s decision-making process.”

“In the meantime, we have moved those who are currently homeless or threatened with homelessness into a category where they can now bid for properties on the housing register, something they could not do before. We’ve also identified and contacted people who have previously applied so that they can join the register if they are still eligible.”

Rough Sleeper Village Planned for Manchester

Plans are under way to build the UK’s largest village for rough sleepers in one of Manchester’s most desirable neighbourhoods, reports The Guardian.

Embassy Village will provide homes for 40 men in purpose-built pods underneath 10 railway arches in the Castlefield district, where one-bedroom flats regularly sell for £250,000. Sandwiched between the River Irwell and the Bridgewater canal, the land has been given for free on a 125-year lease by Peel Group, the developers behind MediaCity and the Manchester Ship Canal. The village is the brainchild of Sid Williams, founder of a Christian charity called Embassy. A skinny-jeaned, perma-cheerful enthusiast, he ran a homeless shelter on Mumford & Sons’ old tour bus until Covid got in the way.

James Whittaker, Peel’s executive director of development, calls him Jesus, “because you can’t help but feel the genuine good he’s doing. He’s probably the kindest, most genuine man I’ve ever met.” Though he would blush at the blasphemous comparison, 36-year-old Williams has a remarkable knack for getting rich people to dig into their pockets in his mission to house the homeless and destitute in Manchester. An estate agent would describe Embassy Village as “waterside living in a city centre location”. Showing the Guardian around the site last month, Williams admitted it currently looks more like “an apocalyptic wasteland”, with water dripping from two viaducts carrying noisy trams and trains and some rough sleepers having already set up mattresses among the detritus of illegal raves.

Planning permission was granted this summer, with 61% of local people in favour of the project. Now Williams – helped by Tim Heatley, founder of property developer Capital & Centric and chair of the Greater Manchester mayor’s homelessness charity – is on a mission to raise £3m to build the village, offering local corporates a chance to sponsor one or more homes. Computer-generated simulations of the project show alfresco dining, festoon lighting and imaginary residents tending to communal gardens – exactly the sort of aspirational images sold to wealthy young professionals moving into the skyscrapers popping up across Manchester. But while they may pay £800 a month for a one-bed studio, Embassy’s residents are likely to pay no more than the local housing allowance – currently £302 a month for a room in a shared house or £552 for a one-bed flat.

Embassy is not providing “forever” homes. Residents can stay for a maximum of two years. The idea is to “give every resident a live trial run at managing a home, cooking, cleaning and paying rent in a sympathetic and supported environment”, said Williams. Running the Embassy bus led Williams to conclude that shelters are not really the answer to solving rough sleeping. If people are to get off the streets, they need stable tenancies and wrap-around support. They also need jobs, which is why Embassy partners with 18 local businesses who agree to give interviews and hopefully employment to its tenants.

To qualify for residency in Embassy Village, residents must be men with no alcohol or drug addictions. (Embassy will soon open a separate, more low-key project for homeless women fleeing domestic violence.) As well as paying rent, they must commit to six hours a week of training in shopping, cooking and budgeting. “I wanted to get away from the shelter model where you sort of accidentally become a parent, going, ‘Oh, I’ll do the shopping. And I’ll do the cleaning. And I’ll do the cooking,’” said Williams. The preconception that most homeless people are addicts is not true, said Williams: “Sixty per cent of our chaps are homeless because of relationship breakdowns.”

During the pandemic, Embassy rented properties to move men from the tour bus into homes, including one who had spent seven years in shelters waiting for a council house. With about 13,000 households on the waiting list in Manchester, he never got to the top as a “single bloke with no criminal record, no addictions and no real mental health struggles”, said Williams. Potential residents will be referred by Manchester city council or local homeless charities and then interviewed by Embassy. “The interview is really to ascertain whether you’re serious about change,” said Williams. “Believe it or not, about half the people we interview say, ‘I don’t want a job, I don’t ever want to work, I want to live in a council flat. That’s my ambition.’ And we go, ‘That’s great. But we are not that thing.’”

Smaller homeless villages have been built in recent years in Bristol and Edinburgh, and the Hope Gardens developments in Ealing, west London, has 60 apartments in containers used as emergency accommodation in 20ft containers for the newly homeless. What makes Embassy different is the ambition to build a community. Central to this is a village hall, complete with counselling room, laundry and communal computers, plus a training kitchen to help residents learn to cook, said Williams: “That way we can be a community, we watch England lose at the football, we can celebrate people’s birthdays, and Christmas dinner – all that good stuff.”

Rise In Post-Pandemic Homelessness

The scale of England’s homelessness crisis has been laid bare after new data released by the government reveals almost 100 households are being made homeless each day in England, reports Yahoo news.

The figures reveal more than 180,000 households have been pushed into homelessness since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stark data shows that between April and June, 20,850 households were found to be homeless or at risk of homelessness by local councils. More than 16,000 households were placed in emergency accommodation – like hostels or B&Bs – which are known for their poor conditions and overcrowding.

According to housing charity Shelter, 8,250 households were owed a relief duty in the same three-month period, which works out at 91 households every day being tipped into homelessness. The numbers also include the first month after the ban on evictions was lifted at the end of May, and is likely to reflect the removal of restrictions on private-rented sector evictions. The ban was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic to protect renters from being made homeless after financial difficulties. On 31 May, the restrictions ended and bailiff enforcement evictions were allowed to resume.

Homeless charities and campaigners warned the government against the move and Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said it left many tenants on the edge. “If the government doesn’t act, the system will collapse under the weight of a growing evictions crisis after the final bailiff ban lifts,” she said. “The government’s ambition to end homelessness will be totally undermined if more people lose their homes in the year ahead. It must step in to help renters clear their COVID rent debts – before it’s too late.”

Some of the biggest increases in homelessness were reported among elderly people (over 75s), Asian people, and people with mental health difficulties. Neate expressed her dismay at the growing numbers of homelessness in wake of the new data, and described the chancellor’s budget as a missed opportunity. “Since the pandemic erupted, more than 180,000 households have been thrown into homelessness and a desperately uncertain future,” she said. “With 91 families becoming homeless every single day, the chancellor missed a vital opportunity to deal with the biggest bill people face – their rent.”

Neate added: “While the government’s benefits support for people in work will provide a vital lifeline for some, it won’t help everyone in need. The months ahead are going to be very hard with soaring food and energy prices on top of extortionate and rising rents. If struggling families are to stand a chance at recovery, the government has to build decent social homes – it is the only solution to homelessness that will last.”

Homeless charity Crisis has also expressed alarm about the new data. “These figures show the first signs of what we feared – once emergency measures were lifted, households began to feel the full force of the financial pressures of the pandemic and we’re now seeing a surge in people experiencing homelessness,” said Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs. “The UK government has announced welcome funding measures, through grants and the announcements in [the] budget to help families in work.”

He added: “We know that it is possible to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place – the most immediate move the UK government can make is to ensure the money is spent effectively – that includes unfreezing housing benefit – to ensure that no one is evicted because of the pandemic, and that more money is made available when it’s needed.”

Help For Struggling Renters Welcome – But It’s Not Enough!

Vulnerable renters who have fallen into arrears during the pandemic will be helped with a £65m support package this winter, the government has announced.

According to a report in The Guardian, councils in England will be able to use the funding to support low-income earners who are behind on their rent, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said. However, organisations representing landlords and people at risk of homelessness said the money will not be enough to help everyone struggling, and called for the government to go further. The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials. This, too, was described as insufficient to meet the scale of the challenge facing low-income families as living costs continue to rise.

The minister for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, said: “This new funding will support families that are struggling and help to get them back on their feet as we begin to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.” Some 3.8m households on low incomes are estimated to be in arrears with household bills, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). About 950,000 are thought to be in rent arrears, 1.4m are behind on council tax bills and 1.4m are behind on electricity and gas bills, the foundation said. It looked at households in the bottom 40% of incomes in the UK, with a household income of £24,752 or less. This represents about 11.6m households. The findings suggest that a third (33%) of low-income households are now in arrears – triple the 11% estimated by a similar study before the coronavirus pandemic, the JRF said.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said: “We of course welcome this funding that should help keep some of those most at risk of homelessness off the streets this winter. It is now vital councils use this funding to help people most at risk of losing their home. But with almost a million households across the UK in rent arrears and the cost of living rising rapidly, it is impossible for this funding to meet the demand we face. To prevent homelessness in the first place, we desperately need the UK government to ensure that housing benefit covers the true cost of renting by unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance.”

Chris Norris, policy director for the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “It is great news that those households worst hit by Covid-related arrears may be able to access financial support. However, £65m does not fully reflect the scale of the problem. NRLA analysis has put the figure of Covid rent debts at over £300m. With warnings that rent debts could pose a risk to the economic recovery and the government admitting that many landlords are highly vulnerable to arrears, the chancellor must go further.”

Mental Health Support For Homeless Veterans Is Axed

Homeless veterans living at the UK’s largest Army barracks have lost vital mental health support after government funding stopped, a charity has said.

The Riverside charity has helped hundreds of ex-servicemen and women in supported accommodation at the Beacon centre at Catterick Garrison, reports the BBC. Housing continues, but tailored mental health support ended in September. The government said veterans could access specialist support from its veterans’ mental health service.

The Beacon, at the North Yorkshire Army base, has helped over 340 homeless veterans since it opened in September 2011. However, funding cuts that were introduced at the end of September mean it can no longer offer specialist services, including support for post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health, physical disabilities and substance misuse.

Veteran Paul said without the help he had received at the centre, he would not be alive today. The 63-year-old, who served in the Army for 14 years, said his mental health deteriorated following the suicide of a friend. “I got very anxious and depressed and eventually it led to the breakdown of my marriage, so I ended up on the streets. I couldn’t stand any noise or anything, so I ended up shouting at my own children and grandchildren.”

Paul eventually sought help from the Beacon and, after two years living there and getting mental health support, he moved into his own house in Bedale. “Without the help I’ve got, I wouldn’t be here. Now I can cope,” he said.

Veteran Ryan has been living at the centre for several months after being homeless for a year. The 24-year-old, from Wakefield, said the help he had received meant he had “turned his life around”. He said he was now hoping to get back into the Army. The Riverside charity said it could not replace the work that was previously done at the centre before funding was cut.

Lee Buss-Blair, Riverside group veteran lead, said: “The support they were able to provide before the loss of funding plays a real part in helping veterans to make a transition back to civilian life in a way that is really sustainable.”

Responding, the government highlighted the £2.7m extension of Operation Courage – the dedicated veterans’ mental health service. The government said that as well as £18m spent on “specific mental health support this year”, it had also given a further £5m support to military charities and priority access to social housing for veterans.

‘Perfect Storm’ Puts Liverpool Rough Sleepers At Risk

Over the past 18 months, something remarkable happened in cities like Liverpool, writes Liam Thorp for the Liverpool Echo.

For a sustained period, when walking around the city centre, you would struggle to see anyone sleeping rough. No sleeping bags, hardly any makeshift beds. The pandemic spread untold pain and misery in cities like this one, but on certain issues – like homelessness and rough sleeping – it appeared to galvanise a movement and a strategy that had been lacking for so long and engineered some seriously impressive results.

In late March 2020, the government asked local councils across England to “help make sure we get everyone in”, including those who would not normally be entitled to assistance under homelessness legislation. Emergency funding was deployed and local authorities raced to ensure that those who were sleeping rough were placed in safe, secure accommodation. They block booked hotels, secured en-suite apartments, took over student halls and found rooms in bed and breakfasts.

These, of course, were exceptional circumstances but almost overnight the rough sleeping crisis in cities like Liverpool was on the way to being solved. A government taskforce was launched, spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey, that worked with local authorities to try and ensure that those who had been taken off the streets during the Everyone In project could be placed in longer-term accommodation and not return to the city streets. In Liverpool an allocations panel was set up which matched people with permanent homes, moving people and families quickly from temporary accommodation into long-term housing.

The results were extraordinary – Everyone In saw 1,800 people accommodated. The subsequent allocations panel ended homelessness for 934 households in Liverpool, with a further 100 matched to new accommodation. The government says it is looking to follow on from the success of Everyone In, but the emergency funding has ended and those working in the sector in Liverpool have said they are seeing the numbers of people now returning to the streets rising again – at the worst possible time.

Charities have described a ‘perfect storm’ made up of the end of that funding, the winter weather arriving and other factors like the removal of the Universal Credit uplift fusing together to create a very dangerous moment for some very vulnerable people in the city. Liverpool Council closed its emergency night shelter, Labre House, during the pandemic and it will not reopen.

The authority has just launched a consultation on its new homelessness and rough sleeping strategy, informed by Everyone In, called the Liverpool Ladder. The strategy will look to move away from the well-intentioned, but sometimes chaotic nature of things at Labre House and towards services that lead more quickly to secure housing and accommodation, with a dedicated street outreach team and a city centre hub to help people get on that ladder. This all sounds very positive, but it will take time and what is happening right now remains a key concern for those working in the area.

David Carter, chief executive of the Whitechapel Centre, said: “The pandemic was horrendous, but it did galvanize change. All these different groups, councils, social housing providers, charities like us came together, all free properties that came up went to homeless people. When you look at the numbers, it was massive. It was the biggest sea change in my time working in this sector. It broke down barriers of exclusion. Everyone In meant that people started with good quality, furnished accommodation but then they had the ability to quickly move on to more long-term accommodation, they weren’t stuck there, it was a pathway out. People were being treated with and living with dignity and they were motivated to change and move forward. The whole thing came together.”

He added: “We’re now in an interim period and the danger, from our perspective, is that we return to what was there before. Labre House won’t reopen but we do need an alternative that offers pathways off the street and into long-term accommodation. Homelessness isn’t a need, its a symptom of not having what you need, whether that’s housing or support services, you need to change those bits and stop people falling into it. One of the things the pandemic has shown is that money does make a big difference, if it’s spent in the right areas and targeted in the right way.”

Mr Carter said that during the pandemic his outreach teams would only be seeing one or two rough sleepers in the city centre – unfortunately in recent weeks that number has risen to between 15 and 20. He added: “We’re in a transition, the pandemic isn’t over. It’s a state of flux. There is an intention and a will to change things for the better locally – but there is a potential gap there right now. Everyone In ended, but the alternatives weren’t there at the right time – and now we are in winter, a crunch moment and that is a worry.”

“We believe the funding should continue in the way it was during the pandemic, because there are more problems to come in terms of mental health issues, Universal Credit cuts and the return of evictions. We need a long term strategy and a long term commitment to funding and that will make the change we need.”

Someone else who saw the impacts of the Everyone In drive first hand was Michelle Langan, who runs the Papercup Project that works to support rough sleepers on the streets of Liverpool. She said: “During the pandemic when we were going out, there were usually four or five people sleeping rough in the city centre. They were entrenched rough sleepers who didn’t want to engage with services. Our charity managed to find and fund accommodation for one of them. But obviously walking around town there was hardly anyone sleeping rough and we hadn’t seen anything like that in Liverpool for a long time.”

“But over the past couple of months, we have seen those numbers rising again and more people who are newly homeless. Over the past couple of weeks people who were being put up at apartments in the city are back on the streets because that funding has finished. We know the council and housing associations are under lots of pressure with funding cuts and the end of the evictions ban. It feels like there is a perfect storm happening right now and we are definitely seeing more people on the streets again.”

Ms Langan agreed with Mr Carter that what happened during the pandemic was the most transformational change she has ever seen when it comes to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness. She said: “It was unbelievable. I never thought I would be able to walk around town and not see any sleeping bags. They found a way to fix it and it is all about money. Now they are saying they will put some other funding towards it, but it won’t be forever, and that doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. It doesn’t make financial sense either because it means people keep needing those services. One of the long-term homeless men who is now back on the streets has now been in hospital for the past three weeks with an injury picked up on the streets – that’s not good for anyone is it? Its putting pressure on other services too.”

Ms Langan, who has given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on homelessness, said she fears that with Covid cases rising and the winter weather set to bite, homeless people in Liverpool will be in real danger. She said: “It’s really hard for us to see, because the way it is ending is as we go into winter, with covid, flu, other conditions, with restrictions lifted. And people are back on the streets and extremely vulnerable to these things, it’s really frightening. I think without a doubt we will see deaths on the streets. In a normal year we see deaths on the streets, now we have these viruses circulating, it’s really worrying.”

Responding to the concerns, a spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “Since the end of the summer, the city has returned to its Always Help Available approach, as providers who supported our pandemic response, such as hotels, have returned to their normal business. This means that anyone who is rough sleeping can rely on the council and its partners to support them to come off of the streets initially into temporary accommodation. The council responded to the government’s ‘Everyone In’ response to rough sleeping by leasing a range of apart hotels, and other Covid secure amenities, including those with 24-hour support staff. Through this approach we accommodated over 2,200 single people and there were very low levels of Covid outbreaks, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the model.”

“However, reducing homelessness demands far more complex solutions than moving people into temporary accommodation. When we are supporting people we are committed to ending their homelessness permanently. A key part of the our new Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2021-26, which is currently out to consultation, is the continuing need for immediate access to support and accommodation.”

“We’ve looked at a range of options that can provide a ‘First Step from the Street’ solution and this approach started in September. We now have two sites and both are staffed 24 hours, seven days a week. However, we remain concerned about the onset of winter and we are looking into opportunities to provide additional units of emergency accommodation to prevent anyone rough sleeping in our city. Alongside this, we will be further developing and expanding the interventions being delivered by outreach teams to people engaged in a street-based lifestyle. This includes faster access to treatment, rehab and mental health support through our new ‘Pathways’ team which will be offering intensive treatment to people who misuse drugs and alcohol.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: ““Everyone In protected thousands of rough sleepers throughout the pandemic with 26,000 moved to long-term accommodation. We are building on that success and the 37% reduction in rough sleeping by investing £750m to tackle the issue.”

Higher Rates of Homelessness Amongst Young Black People

Youth homeless in the UK has increased by an estimated two-fifths in five years, rising to more than 120,000, a leading charity director has warned, as fresh analysis suggests that black households are likely to be disproportionally affected, reports the Guardian.

Seyi Obakin, the chief executive of Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, said its estimates show 86,000 young people in the UK presented to their local authority as homeless or at risk in 2016/17, and that the figure increased to 121,000 in 2019-20. Obakin expressed fears that youth homelessness would worsen as a result of the pandemic, with Centrepoint’s helpline receiving a record number of calls since the start of the crisis. He also believes young black Britons will probably be disproportionally affected.

His warnings come as Guardian analysis shows that although England’s black population stands at about 3.5%, black households make up 10% of those that are homeless or at risk of homelessness, according to data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for the year 2020-21. In London, black households represent 30% of those owed homelessness prevention or homelessness relief by their local authorities, despite making up just 12.5% of London’s population. In the Guardian analysis, homelessness, and being at risk of homelessness, is defined by whether a local authority owes prevention or relief duty to a household. The data is not broken down by age.

Mr Obakin said: “It is not surprising that black households are overrepresented in official homelessness statistics, but this does not mean we should tolerate it. Without a home, children’s development and educational attainment suffers and it becomes harder to find a job or stay healthy or maintain relationships that enable people to thrive.” He said that Centrepoint saw a third more calls to the helpline since the start of pandemic, with huge surges of demand around local lockdowns. He pinned this increase down to the multiple crisis disproportionally affecting young people, from mental health issues to high unemployment, and urged the government to intervene.

“The problem is worse than it was a decade ago and it’s actually worse than it was two years ago,” Obakin said. “It is heartbreaking to see the range of complex issues that young people are presenting with is also getting wider. That in a way is a mirror of what’s happening in society itself.” He said racial disparities in youth unemployment, with Guardian analysis showing black youth unemployment was more than three times higher than among their white counterparts, had a knock-on effect on youth homelessness. “We know from our data that about three-fifths of young people who seek help from Centrepoint are from ethnically diverse backgrounds,” he added.

He fears the problem will worsen now the government has pushed ahead with its planned cuts to universal credit, which he describes as a vital safety net. “That safety net is what is being cut. So I worry young black people will be disproportionately affected,” he said. Obakin said that through the newly created DLUHC, the government has a “tremendous opportunity” to not only tackle rough sleeping, “but to go beyond and ensure that those who are homeless, or face homelessness are given the support and services they need before they have to sleep rough. That is good for the people, and it is also good for the taxpayer.”

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “The government is helping prevent more young people from becoming homeless, and this year we’ve invested £750m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. During the pandemic we made huge progress to bring rough sleepers off the streets, helping over 37,000 people into safe and secure accommodation, including 26,000 who have already moved into longer-term accommodation.”

How Do You Explain Homelessness To A Child?

A little girl is on mission to make homeless people smile in Chester and Liverpool, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Carly Davies, 25, had just picked up her six-year-old niece, Lia, from school last Monday (October 11) afternoon when the little girl made a surprise suggestion. Carly told the Echo: “She said that she saw somebody in town and that she realised they didn’t have a pillow, and she thought they’d get sore necks.”

Carly, who herself was once homeless and living in hostels, explained to Lia that these people are homeless and have nowhere to go. Carly said: “I just said to her that some people aren’t as lucky as others. They’re still people and they still deserve the same amount of kindness as everybody else. It’s just that they haven’t got a bedroom like she has. They have to stay out there.”

Carly added: “I just explained to Lia that I’m going to be going out to give blankets out and that, and she said she wanted to come. She had the idea of giving out toothpaste as well so they could keep their teeth clean, and hand sanitizer because of the virus.”

Lia, from Chester, told the Echo: “I want to make people smile because I don’t want people being sad, it makes me feel bad.” Her aunt Carly likes that Lia wants to help, but she also felt bad when Lia told her. Carly said: “People shouldn’t be on the streets. You shouldn’t be seeing people in that situation, should you?”

Speaking of her own time being homeless, Carly said: “I was lucky enough to be in hostels, but it’s not a nice experience. You get people thinking that just because you’re homeless, you don’t deserve people being nice to you. They just think you’re automatically bad. That’s why I want to help.”

“I normally go out every Christmas, and if I see a homeless person, I’ll get them a blanket and hand stuff out to them. I made little cards, and they say, ‘Storms don’t last forever’, and on the back there are Samaritans and ForFutures numbers.”

Carly and Lia are putting together survival packs with food, toiletries, pillows and blankets, some hats that someone is making, and Carly’s little cards, to hand out to homeless people in Chester and Liverpool. Carly added: “We’re going to try and get some Selection boxes as well because we think that everyone deserves a Christmas present, no matter what situation you’re in.”

Objections To New Homeless Centre In Manchester

Plans to open a shelter near Manchester’s Green Quarter offering homeless men support services and a pathway into living independently have encountered local opposition, reports the Manchester Evening News.

MCR Property Group and the Manchester Homeless Partnership want to provide accommodation for 31 ‘low-risk’ individuals from vacant buildings north of the city centre on Lord Street.

The number of people presenting as homeless in Manchester has reached and is exceeding pre-Covid levels, with thousands – including families and children – living in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts. Under plans submitted to Manchester council, tenants would stay in ensuite bedrooms while also sharing communal lounges, kitchens and meeting spaces.

Staff would be onsite on a 24-hour basis to monitor those staying at the centre, while also helping them to develop skills, search for jobs and apply for benefits. The NHS has also expressed an interest in taking over a proposed healthcare facility within the building, which will only house people assessed as low risk and will not allow self-referrals.

But the scheme, which has been recommended for approval by Manchester council officers, has received 18 objections, mainly from people living in the Green Quarter nearby. In a report going before the planning committee, one objector claimed: “Homelessness accommodation would lead to increased antisocial behaviour and crime. This location is not appropriate next to city centre flats with young professionals and families. It would be detrimental to the quality of life for residents and depress investment in the area.” Other objectors have raised concerns about existing issues of antisocial behaviour relating to rough sleepers, as well as the safety of women walking near the centre.

Manchester council officers say they are satisfied with the operational management plan set out by the applicant, which includes around-the-clock staffing and CCTV. The report also says that the accommodation would be managed by an experienced provider that is already operating in the sector on behalf of MCR Property Group.

A statement provided with the application says: “The proposals support the concept that individuals should be helped to move on to more permanent accommodation and should be steered in the right direction to ensure that homelessness is not repeated. The provision of a clear pathway out of homeless accommodation is acutely recognised by the applicant and within the proposals put forward there is a clear aim for residents of the centre to be provided with the skills and connections in order for them to find a permanent home as soon as possible, a key factor in the success and effectiveness for this level of accommodation.”

All Aboard The Bus!

London buses are being fitted out to help the homeless as winter looms, reports Sky News.

The number of rough sleepers has risen over the past 18 months, with an estimated 130,000 households made homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, two London buses have been fitted out to help the city’s thousands of homeless people as winter approaches. Driving For Change will offer free GP consultations, haircuts, dental care, digital and financial literacy training, and help to open a bank account where appropriate.

Camel Ezel, the founder of Change Please, the coffee shop and social enterprise behind the idea, called it “the next step in tackling the homelessness crisis in England”. He hopes the buses can make the winter months easier for those who have no place to stay, and that the idea can be used in other cities and countries.

He said: “We believe in sustainable approaches to ending homelessness and Driving For Change will give the most vulnerable people the opportunity to access crucial services which can guide and support them in changing their lives long-term. We hope to take the project nationwide and then internationally to achieve maximum impact – discussions around Paris and Los Angeles have already begun.”

The number of rough sleepers has risen over the past 18 months, with an estimated 130,000 households made homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is despite some government interventions earlier in the pandemic – the ban on evictions, increases to universal credit, and the furlough scheme. Mr Ezel said: “We’re now going into the cold months when you see the most deaths out on the streets, so we really need to try and find people, working with local partners and local charities so we can get to people as urgently as we can.”

Thomas Noble is among those who have been helped by Change Please. Mr Noble arrived in the UK three years ago, having been deported from the US after a one-year jail sentence for drug trafficking. He found himself alone in London with an addiction to pain-killing narcotics after a car crash. He was sleeping rough for about a month before learning about the social enterprise and retraining as a barista.

The transition would have been easier if the buses had been available, he said, adding: “If you go into a GP or something and you’re off the street, people are going to look at you. That’s not a good feeling for anybody. They don’t want to feel that way, but they’ve not been given a chance. There will be no judgement: you step on that bus and they’ve got you. If this was there when I started, things would be even better than they are now.”

Mr Noble is now off painkillers and working five days a week at Change Please’s sister company Spike + Earl. He also works weekends for Change Please in London’s Borough Market and Victoria Market. He earns the London living wage of £10.20 an hour, lives in an apartment, has paid time off and plans for the future. Your vanilla frappuccino from Starbucks is always the same,” he added. But with Change Please, you actually have somebody who appreciates the fact that you stopped to get some coffee from them that’s going to be good. For me, it’s a win-win.”

Change Please is also working with Community Dental Services CIC to fit out the bus with a mobile clinic where people can receive treatment. Lorraine Mattis, the organisation’s director said: “We are delighted to be part of the Driving For Change initiative, bringing much needed oral health care directly to homeless people building on our experience in mobile dentistry and supporting the oral health of vulnerable people. It is fantastic to see social enterprises working together in an innovative way like this to directly address social need.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Tackling homelessness is a priority for the Government and we’re spending an unprecedented £750m this year as part of our commitment to end rough sleeping during this parliament. We have made huge progress to bring rough sleepers off the streets during the pandemic and helped over 37,000 people into safe and secure accommodation, including 26,000 who have already moved into longer-term accommodation.”