First Detox Centre For Homeless People

London’s first dedicated detox unit for homeless people is set to open on 14 June to help save the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable people and provide them with an avenue off the streets for good.

The service, led by PHE London, was set up in partnership with the Greater London Authority, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, borough councils and the City of London Corporation. The Addiction Clinical Care Suite, based at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, will plug a known gap in treatment facilities for homeless people dealing with serious alcohol and substance dependence. Its location in a hospital setting will enable patients to receive the wide range of care needed to treat the complexity of health problems facing those living on London’s streets.

As well as supporting people who sleep rough to safely withdraw from alcohol and drugs as part of the first steps in a treatment journey, the service will also provide peer support, groups, and activities alongside a range of other initiatives focusing on stopping smoking, healthy eating, essential screening, vaccinations and mental wellbeing. It includes a holistic support programme, with access to psychiatrists and psychologists to help patients begin a recovery from life on the streets and harmful substance use. The intention is to meet immediate needs while providing opportunities for long-term change, contributing to ending rough sleeping and tackling entrenched health inequalities.

The service is funded through a combination of grants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and local authority treatment budgets. Referrals will come from across London and local authorities will ensure that people supported by the service have somewhere suitable to go after their detox period has been completed. This is the first of several new pan-London substance misuse services due to open this year thanks to the PHE-led partnership and commissioning from the City of London. These initiatives will give people who sleep rough a life-saving opportunity to access valuable treatment services that have been designed to meet their needs and specific vulnerabilities.

Alison Keating, Head of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at PHE London, said: “We are delighted to have been able to lead on the creation of this fantastic new unit that will provide life-changing and life-saving treatments to some of London’s most vulnerable homeless people. Joint working with some of the city’s leading organisations has helped us to provide this avenue off the streets and out of addiction. We will continue to work across organisational boundaries to build on this innovation and make a real and sustained difference to London’s most vulnerable populations.”

Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, said: “We know that one of the many issues facing rough sleepers, or those at risk of homelessness, is drug or alcohol misuse and the crippling effect this can have on people’s lives. The detox unit at St Thomas’ Hospital will offer transformative care to rough sleepers in London suffering from addiction, to ensure some of London’s most vulnerable people get the help they need.

This is one of many projects supported by the government’s £750 million investment this year to help end rough sleeping, which includes £52 million specifically allocated to substance misuse support services.”

The average life expectancy for a rough sleeper in England is 44 years old. This new programme offers a unique opportunity to maximise the engagement of London’s rough sleepers in substance misuse treatment and recovery as part of a wider homeless health and resettlement programme.

130,000 Households Made Homeless During Pandemic

While ban on evictions protected some people, domestic abuse and loss of temporary accommodation were common triggers for homelessness, reports The Guardian.

At least 130,000 households in England were made homeless during the first year of the pandemic, despite the government’s ban on evictions, according to data sourced by the Observer. With the ban now over, fears are rising that a surge of evictions may be imminent. But the Observer’s figures show that even while the ban was in place, households were being forced from their homes.

“The ban didn’t stop tens of thousands from facing homelessness,” said Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter. “During the pandemic, the most common triggers for homelessness were no longer being able to stay with friends or family, losing a private tenancy, and domestic abuse.”

Analysis of published government homelessness statistics and figures collected under the Freedom of Information Act from around 70% of local authorities in England show that 132,362 households were assessed by councils as being owed the “relief duty”, where a household is deemed to already be homeless. The number of homeless households rose slightly in 2020-21 compared with the previous year. Overall, councils in England were approached 274,000 times for homelessness assistance during 2020-21, with around 106,000 owed the “prevention duty” as they were at risk of homelessness but not yet legally homeless.

The number of households applying for support rose sharply during the final quarter of 2020-21. In Cornwall, 44% of applications for support were made in that three-month period, and 64% in Bath and North East Somerset. Among the worst affected councils is Manchester, although this is partly due to the sheer size of the city. In 2020-21, 3,660 households were initially assessed as homeless by Manchester council, up from 2,906 in 2019-20. A spokesperson for the council said: “The pandemic has been a huge source of hardship for many, and in some cases that has led to people losing their homes.

“​The eviction suspension which has now come to an end did protect most people from losing their homes, but not all. The people who became homeless during the pandemic were mainly those fleeing domestic abuse or households asked to leave by family or friends.​ The end of the eviction ban in England will undoubtedly have an impact on the number of people turning to the council for help, but we are yet to see the end result of this change in policy.”

A spokesperson for the tenants’ union Acorn said: “The sheer number of people made homeless in the last year is extremely upsetting but entirely unsurprising. The government’s commitment to tackling the crisis of homelessness has repeatedly been shown to exist only in word and not in action. The government needs to finally take this seriously. Homelessness isn’t an unavoidable natural phenomenon: it can be solved if the political will exists to do so.”

A government spokesperson said the figures were “entirely speculative” and said: “We have taken unprecedented action to protect renters and support those at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping during the pandemic with the ongoing Everyone In scheme supporting around 37,000 vulnerable people. We’re providing over £750m this year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”

Bosco Teams Up With New Charity To Create Green Spaces

The Bosco Society is delighted to announce they’re working with a new charity, Jackpine, to create a new green space at their hostel in Bootle.

The project aims to help tackle climate change, boost mental health, biodiversity, and aesthetics by creating a new green space that involves planting numerous plants on a ‘green wall’ and railings at Bosco Lodge on Stanley Road. COVID-19 rules permitting, they’re hoping to complete the project in summer this year.

To understand climate change, we first need to remind ourselves of the basics – the greenhouse effect. A proportion of thermal energy from the Earth’s surface escapes into space, but some gases in the atmosphere, called greenhouse gases, trap this escaping thermal energy. This causes some of the thermal energy to pass back to the surface. This is called the greenhouse effect, and it is essential to keep our planet warm.

More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, however, increases the greenhouse effect to undesirable levels. Human activity has increased levels of carbon dioxide that has caused the planet to become warmer than it would be naturally, and this is what we call climate change or global warming. A proven method of reducing the harmful carbon in the atmosphere is through tree planting. Trees absorb harmful greenhouses gasses such as the previously mentioned carbon dioxide and then release oxygen back into the air.

So, what are the benefits of ‘green’ walls? We asked Jackpine founder, Tom Lees: “There are numerous benefits for green or living walls on buildings. They restore the link between humans and nature that has become an ever-increasing issue in urban areas. They are aesthetically pleasing, and the benefits of being near nature and vegetation have been proven to help improve our overall wellbeing and mental health.”

Tom added: “They also have multiple environmental benefits such as removing air pollutants from the surrounding air space, they help insulate a building and regulate surrounding temperatures, and can improve local biodiversity. We are currently looking for volunteers for the day so if you are interested please email volunteer@jackpinecharity.org.”

Bosco Chairman, Alan Matthews, said: “We’re really excited about this new venture. Anything we can do to reduce carbon emissions has got to be important and Tom has the vision and enthusiasm to make this work. We hope that our consortium partners in SSHG will join us in identifying sites for green walls and planting more trees.”

You can find out more at www.jackpinecharity.org.

Homeless To Receive Extra Housing Support Says Government

Thousands of vulnerable people, including the homeless and care leavers, will get more cash to pay their rent, thanks to changes to housing benefits.

These changes are coming into force from Monday 31 May 2021 – two years earlier than scheduled. This will offer £10 million of additional housing support, bringing the total projected government spending on housing support to £30 billion this year.

Increases to the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) are expected to benefit thousands of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants, and have been introduced more than two years earlier than the original implementation date of October 2023. The SAR is applied to renters aged under 35 claiming support through Local Housing Allowance (LHA). It adjusts their benefit to the cost of renting a room in shared accommodation, but there is a higher, one-bedroom rate for people who need to rent solo housing.

There are two key changes to the Local Housing Allowance:

  1. Care leavers can now claim the higher one-bedroom LHA rate for longer, as the maximum age limit has been raised to 25, from 22. A care leaver is a person who has been in Local Authority care (e.g. residential or foster care) for 13 weeks or more since they were age 14, and ending after age 16.
  2. Anyone who has lived in a homeless hostel for 3 months or more, regardless of age, will also now be able to claim the higher rate, as the age limit has been removed.

For example, in Harlow and Stortford a single care leaver aged 23 could expect to receive up to £387 additional housing support per month as a result of the change.

Minister for Welfare Delivery, Will Quince, said: “These changes are an immediate boost for some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. We know that having a safe, secure home is vital to getting on your feet and often into work. By bringing these changes in early, we’re able to help more people right now, as we all look to recover from the pandemic.”

For more information, click here.

Homeless Woman Dies Not Knowing Of £600,000 Inheritance

A desperate homeless mum died in a shelter unaware she had £600,000 of unclaimed inheritance, reports The Mirror.

Cathy Boone, 49, passed away after efforts to trace her and hand over the fortune failed. The mum-of-two, from Oregon, USA, was the rightful owner of the money after her mother died in 2016. But despite newspaper adverts seeking her and the help of a private investigator, she was not traced in time.

Her father Jack Spithall has told KGW News she needed “help in the worst way” at the end of her life. Ms Boone had been suffering from drug and mental health issues when she passed away while sleeping rough in Astoria, Oregon. The city’s winter temperatures can dip below freezing.

“It just didn’t make any sense to me,” her dad Jack Spithall said in a TV interview. Boone grew up in the Portland area and later moved to Astoria, where her mother lived after her parents had separated.

Her $884,407 inheritance money now remains unclaimed in a state bank account after the estate’s representatives couldn’t locate her. The funds were moved to the Department of State Lands amid uncertainty over who has claims to them.

“Given a year and a half of effort taken by the personal representative and the attorney for this particular estate, there really isn’t much more that the state could do,” Claudia Ciobanu, a spokesperson for the department said. “This is a unique case and we sympathise with the family.”

Ms Boone’s two biological children and others could potentially have claims to her cash, the station said.

Homeless Man Becomes TikTok Star

A drama student who is officially homeless has become one of Britain’s top TikTok stars with more than 10 million followers.

Ehiz Ufuah, 22, lives with his family in emergency accommodation after they fell on hard times and lost their council home 15 months ago, reports The Mirror. Now his big ambition is to buy a house for his single mum, three sisters and two brothers after making a surprise breakthrough online – with a funny clip about doing the dishes. Ehiz was stunned when it went viral – and now earns about £3,000 a month through the video-sharing platform. And he hopes his success might even help him achieve his ambition of being a Hollywood actor.

But all this looked like a pipe dream as the Greenwich University student and his family lost their council home in Romford, East London, and were temporarily moved into a Travelodge in January 2020. Ehiz says he joined TikTok in February 2020 “to see what the hype was about”.

He posted a comic video of him pacing back and forth wondering whether to do the washing-up for his mum or leave it for his siblings – before racing to the sink as he hears her coming. Ehiz was gobsmacked when it hit 750,000 views, saying: “I’d only had about three followers until then. “My family and friends were texting me, telling me I was famous. I couldn’t believe all the attention that video got me.” Since then he has never looked back with his TikTok account’s popularity rocketing.

“I was in Primark last December and I had to be escorted out as too many people were crowding around me to get a picture,” says Ehiz. His growing profile was spotted by TikTok influencer agency Yoke Network. In March he was invited to make a Big Brother-style show for YouTube with four other TikTok stars in a Surrey mansion. Ehiz said: “It was an incredible experience, having a pool and movie theatre to enjoy. And while I didn’t make money from the show, it really raised my profile. I get recognised all the time in the street.”

His videos have even been reposted on Instagram by some of the cast of Love Island. “Megan McKenna from The Only Way Is Essex has reached out to me,” he says. “But the person I was most starstruck by was supermodel Adut Akech.” Now the drama student has his own dreams of stardom. He says: “I’ve always thought it would impossible to be a Hollywood actor but in recent years a lot of actors not from privileged backgrounds have made it.”

Nearly A Million People Face Homelessness

A ban on bailiff-enforced evictions designed to cut families some slack during the coronavirus pandemic has come to an end as of today, June 1st, reports The Metro.

Hundreds of thousands of households are worried about losing their homes as the Government confirmed the temporary measure introduced to reduce the burden on renters during difficult financial times will expire as planned. New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimates 800,000 households fear eviction, with around half of that number expected to have already been given formal warning to pack their bags. Renters across the country have been plunged into arrears as furloughed workers and self-employed people not eligible for support saw their income shrink overnight.

The timing of the move will raise eyebrows, given warnings this week that the UK is in the early stages of a third wave of Covid-19 infections. The JRF said the temporary ban on bailiff-enforced evictions introduced in March 2020 – and extended several times since – has provided much-needed security to renters during the pandemic. Its survey of more than 10,000 households suggested ‘clear warning signs’ of a spike in evictions and homelessness as the ban lifts.

Rachelle Earwaker, from the JRF, said: “For the 450,000 families locked in rent debt, the prospect of securing a mortgage is simply unimaginable and, worse still, many will now struggle to secure a new home in the private rented sector just as the eviction ban ends. High levels of arrears are restricting families’ ability to pay the bills and forcing many to rely on hidden borrowing. This is not only deeply unjust, it is also economically naive and risks hampering our economic recovery, which is reliant on household spending increasing as society continues to reopen.”

She added: “The Government’s decision to provide a generous tax break to wealthier homeowners through the stamp duty holiday while failing to protect renters points to a worrying two-tier recovery in which those who were prospering prior to the pandemic will continue to do so while those who have been hit hard will sink even further behind. The cost of boosting support to tackle rent arrears is a fraction of the cost of the stamp duty holiday.”

Homelessness charity Shelter backed the JRF’s criticism of the decision not to extend the eviction ban on its Twitter account, writing: “The eviction ban has been a lifeline for renters who have weathered job losses, falling incomes and rising debts in this pandemic. The Government needs to do more. It cannot waver from delivering a Renters’ Reform Bill that scraps Section 21 “no fault” evictions altogether. And in the meantime, it must offer renters with crippling Covid-arrears a package of financial aid.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to support renters and help keep them in their homes including introducing a comprehensive £352 billion support package, which has prevented widespread build-up of rent arrears. Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, national restrictions are gradually being eased and it’s now the right time to start to lift the emergency measures we put in place. Tenants will continue to be supported with longer notice periods and financial help is still available such as the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of September. Evictions will not be carried out if a member of the home has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.”

Eviction Ban In Sefton Ends This Month

Tenants and landlords in Sefton have been urged to seek support as the government’s ban on evictions comes to an end on Monday, May 31, reports Tom Martin in The Champion.

The ban, which was brought into place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was extended from its original September deadline but will now end on the last day of May. Sefton Council’s Homeless Prevention Service can provide advice to the borough’s tenants and landlords and they are urging anyone affected to get in touch. They can help tenants find support to help maintain their tenancy or with moving on to more affordable and suitable accommodation.

They can also assist landlords that are facing issues such as rent arrears and late or inconsistent rent payments. Landlords who have concerns about vulnerable tenants can also contact the team for support in resolving the situation.

The Homeless Prevention Service can be contacted at homeless.prevention@sefton.gov.uk or by calling 07966 698 065 or 07870 379586.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said: “The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many people’s circumstances and incomes is likely to be making the costs of housing a problem for some people in Sefton. We want any tenants who think they might be facing problems after the Government ends its eviction ban at the end of May to contact us as soon as possible so that we can work with them to find practical solutions. And we want to hear from landlords expecting difficulties, so that we can help them reach practical solutions without the lost rent and other costs that can result from evictions and disputes.”

Sefton Council wants to hear from tenants who have received an eviction notice or have rent arrears, who are managing outstanding and current debts or who are trying to reduce their expenses or get the most from their income. People having problems applying for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and with concerns about their own or family members’ mental health, drug or alcohol issues affecting your tenancy should also contact the service. Landlords who contact the team may be concerned about affordability issues due to a change in circumstances, anti-social behaviour, their tenant’s mental health, addiction or other vulnerabilities that are affecting the tenancy.

Cllr Hardy added: “It is not always easy to talk about these issues, but Sefton Council’s Homeless Prevention Service can help start that conversation easier and then to find constructive ways to overcome the problems. I would urge any tenants or landlords who are worried to contact the Team now at homeless.prevention@sefton.gov.uk  or on 07966 698 065 or 07870 379586.”

New Advocacy Guidance For Homeless 16 And 17 Year-Olds

Young people aged 16 and 17 who become homeless can be housed under the Housing Act or the Children Act, writes Lauren Page-Hammick at Homeless Link.

The piece of legislation they are housed under will affect what support they are entitled to, where they are housed and whether the local authority has owes them a corporate parenting duty. Sadly, research from Just for Kids Law, a UK charity that works with and for children and young people, providing legal representation, advice, direct advocacy and support, has shown that young people are not always housed under the right legislation. This impacts the support they are entitled to in the short and long term and affects both their experiences of homelessness and risk of future homelessness.

It is important that 16-17 year olds are housed under the most appropriate pathway to meet their needs. The systems and legal responsibilities at play, however, are complex and can be hard to navigate. We know this can be challenging, and both young people and frontline workers can experience gatekeeping, receive incorrect information, or get lost in systems.

Homeless Link’s research ’We Have A Voice, Follow Our Lead’ highlighted that young people want better information, earlier on, and how they value youth and homelessness practitioners who support the through these systems. We have developed this guidance with Just for Kids Law, so workers are equipped with the information needed to support and advocate for the rights of the young people they work with. Alongside a guide to the legal rights of young people, this resource provides information so workers and young people can plan and prepare to present at local authorities.

The decision to seek support through their local authority may be the first significant decision a young person has made, that is not dictated by threats to their own or others safety. This guidance centres a trauma-informed approach that focuses on how to maintain young people’s sense of safety and control. Young people deserve to have an advocate to help them navigate their homelessness journey. Workers deserve to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to advocate for the young people they support. We hope this resource will help any professional do just that.

You can find out more at: www.justforkidslaw.org/news

London Boroughs Fear A ‘Wave Of Homelessness’

Homelessness in London is expected to reach its highest ever levels by Christmas boroughs are warning.

The Evening Standard reports that London Councils said the capital faces the “most severe homelessness crisis” in the country and a “triple whammy” of the government ending of the eviction ban, Covid emergency funding and the furlough scheme over the coming months could see thousands more families pushed into temporary local authority-funded accommodation.

Figures released by the cross-party group show there are now 165,000 Londoners living in temporary accommodation – more than the entire population of cities such as Norwich or Oxford, and double the number of 10 years ago. Some 90,000 are children. Last year boroughs collectively spent more than £1.2billion on the homelessness crisis and today called on the government to increase investment in services.

London Councils’ executive member for housing, Darren Rodwell, said: “There’s a very real risk of London’s homelessness crisis getting even worse. In the coming months we can expect a triple whammy of continuing job losses in the capital, the imminent lifting of the evictions ban, and uncertainty over future funding levels for local homelessness services.

Mr Rodwell added: “Boroughs are doing everything we can to tackle homelessness in the capital, but ultimately we need the government to rethink its welfare policies and to boost long-term funding for local services if we’re to reverse these disastrous trends.”

Homelessness in London previously peaked in 2005 when there were 63,800 households in temporary accommodation. Today there are 60,680 households, as well as some 3,600 rough sleepers who were placed in emergency housing during the pandemic. Almost a quarter of a million London households are also on council house waiting lists.

London Councils said if the government confirmed social rent levels for the next ten years and ended restrictions on how town halls can use Right to Buy sales receipts boroughs would be in a much “stronger financial position to invest in new social homes”.

The government is giving councils across the country £203 million through its Rough Sleeping Initiative fund, which was created to help local authorities get people off the streets. It is part of the £750 million pledged to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year. The government has also extended four-month notice periods landlords have to give tenants until at least end of September.