Immigration status checks could increase homelessness, say charities

The government has recently announced that it will push ahead with plans to force landlords to check the immigration status of renters, following a Home Office evaluation of a pilot scheme in Birmingham.

The evaluation showed that six of the local charities surveyed said people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while interviews with landlords found the ‘potential’ for discrimination. Seven of the charities reported that people who have the right to rent, but not the right documentation, were struggling to find accommodation.

Responding to the evaluation, national homelessness charity, Crisis, raised grave concerns that the measures could leave people homeless and at risk of discrimination.

Matt Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: Today’s Home Office evaluation contains some alarming findings about the homelessness impact of these plans. Crisis has already raised serious concerns that requiring landlords to check the immigration status of renters could make it even harder for homeless people to find a place to live, and this report shows that our fears are well founded.

“It is deeply troubling that in the pilot area, six of the local charities surveyed said that people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while seven indicated that people with the right to rent were struggling to find accommodation.

“Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen, and in today’s high pressure rental market, landlords will be more likely to rent to someone who can provide the evidence quickly. As well as creating problems for homeless people, this could lead to discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds, as today’s evaluation suggests.

“As members of the advisory panel we will be raising these concerns with the Home Office and strongly urge the government to work with us to make sure nobody is made homeless because of this scheme.”

Superstar Helps Houston Homeless

The superstar singer, Beyonce, is putting her money where her mouth is to help homeless people in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Earlier this year she donated half a million dollars to Chime for Change, a global campaign that was created to help strengthen and unite the voices of young women around the world by inspiring them with “powerful stories” about inspiring women. But back in June, news surfaced that the singer didn’t stop there.

It has been revealed that she stumped up $7 million to build a low-income housing project in her hometown for homeless men, women and children. She was even dubbed a saint by her Pastor, Rev. Rudy Rasmus, for her involvement with the church.

“She’s an incredible human being. Has an incredible heart and has been extremely helpful in our mission and our ministry here,” Rasmus said in a recent interview. “She has a global platform and is doing some amazing work and I’m glad she’s a friend of mine,” he continued.

Alongside the ex-Manchester United players allowing their property to be used by rough sleepers, it’s good to see that the rich and famous can give something back to their communities, especially to help the homeless.

Venus Has Christmas All Wrapped Up!

As the festive season is fast approaching, there are loads of Christmassy things going on at Venus, Our Place, and their project in Halton.

The Venus Children’s Christmas Party is being held on Tuesday the 22nd of December, from 1.30-3.30pm. The party is for families who have received support from Venus in the last year. If you would like to put your family’s name down for the party, then call into Venus or telephone them on 0151 474 4744.

Our Place is holding a Christmas Party for young people planning to leave care and care leavers, on the 18th of December from 4.30pm onwards. If you would like to book onto this party, then please call them on 0151 928 1380 or call into Our Place.

Last year, the Our Place Christmas Fair was a great success and they’re now looking forward to another great time at this year’s, which is on the 17th of December starting at 4.30pm at Our Place. If you’re interested in having a table at the fair, you can find out more about this by calling the Centre. Otherwise, they’re looking forward to seeing you at the fair for Christmassy goodies and bargains galore!

Venus, Our Place and our Halton office will be closed from the 22nd of December. However, they will be open for telephone advice and support on the days that aren’t Bank Holidays over the Christmas period. You can call between 1pm and 4pm, on either 0151 474 4744 or 0151 928 1380, on the following days:

  • Wednesday 23rd December 2015
  • Thursday 24th December 2015
  • Tuesday 29th December 2015
  • Wednesday 30th December 2015
  • Thursday 31st December 2015

All of the Centres will be open again on Monday the 4th of January from 9.00am.

There are lots of other events and activities happening in the run up to Christmas, too. Our Place carol singers will be at Liverpool One on Wednesday the 2nd of December from 6pm, so if you’re shopping and can spare a few pennies they will be singing for their supper and rattling the collection buckets.

There are lots of other activities on offer so if you’re interested in getting involved and feeling festive, you know what to do – drop in or phone for more info!

Clarification On The Latest Spending Review

According to Homeless Link, a number of agencies have contacted them since the Spending Review announcement on the 25th of November, asking for more information on the proposed restriction of social housing rates of Housing Benefit to Local Housing Allowance levels and whether this applies to hostels and supported housing.

There are three key things that have been confirmed by the Government that will help in understanding what is set out in the review:

  1. Although the new rules will apply to affected individuals who sign their tenancy from April 2016 onwards, they will be entitled to full Housing Benefit until April 2018.
  2. Supported housing is covered by the new rules.
  3. The Government is committed to exempting supported housing from the new rules by increasing Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to local authorities.

As Universal Credit is being rolled out, Lord Freud said there should be a “localised” solution to the funding of supported housing, so this announcement needs to be seen in that context. Ministers are still working out the best approach to the funding of rents in supported housing in the context of Housing Benefit being phased-out. This is also tied to the review of the rental costs in supported housing, which has been commissioned by Government and is due to report in 2016.

There are numerous concerns that will follow from this change and Homeless Link will be raising these in discussions with Government. Especially, whether DHP can realistically be seen as a way of exempting supported housing.

There are also wider concerns about the policy, particularly in relation to young people and the wider application of the Shared Accommodation Rate in the social sector, which go beyond the supported housing issue. Homeless Link will also be taking those concerns forward.

Rough Sleepers Driven Away By Bagpipes

Homeless people in Bournemouth are being driven away by the ear-piercing sound of bagpipe music. The city centre travel interchange has adopted the sound as a deterrent to those wishing to sleep there.

More than a dozen homeless men and women used to congregate by the station’s restrooms in the Dorset bus station, according to local newspaper The Daily Echo.

The initiative was introduced after the rough sleepers reportedly intimidated passers-by and hurled drunken abuse at women. Between midnight and 6:30am the shrill sound is played out on repeat over the speakers, and so far it appears to have kept away those looking for a place to sleep.

“It seems to be doing the job,” one unnamed station worker said. “They just cannot stand it, you try getting any sleep with that going on,” he added. However, one local, who asked not to be named, told the paper: “What a daft idea, all that will do is send them elsewhere, these people need practical help.”

The scheme was introduced by Dorset Police and Bournemouth Borough Council, which said it was working hard to address issues of street anti-social behavior. “This has included regular police patrols, proactive input from our rough sleeper team, and we have been trialling the playing of music in the evenings and night time to deter rough sleeping,” a spokesman said.

The Town That Eliminated Homelessness

In 2009, the city of Medicine Hat, in southern Alberta, Canada, pledged to put an end to homelessness. Now city officials say they’ve fulfilled their promise.

The answer seems simple: if you’ve got no place to go, they’ll provide you with housing. Nowadays, under a programme called Housing First, no one in the city spends more than ten days in an emergency shelter or on the streets.

Like most places, housing is tight in Medicine Hat, and frequent flooding in the past few years has added to their problems. But, with money chipped in by the province, the city built many new homes.

“We’re pretty much able to meet that standard today. Even quicker, actually, sometimes,” Mayor Ted Clugston says. He admits that when the project began in 2009, when he was an alderman, he was an active opponent of the plan. “I even said some dumb things like, ‘Why should they have granite countertops when I don’t,'” he says. “However, I’ve come around to realise that this makes financial sense.”

Clugston says that it costs about $20,000 a year to house someone. If they’re on the street, it can cost up to $100,000 a year. “This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people,” he says.

“Housing First turns everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues,'” Clugston says. “If you’re addicted to drugs, it’s going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you’re sleeping under a park bench.”

And the strategy seems to have worked. In Medicine Hat, hospital emergency room visits and interactions with police have dropped. But there was one change that initially surprised Clugston — court appearances went up.

“They end up dealing with their past, atoning for their sins,” he says. Mayor Clugston believes that no one on the streets is unreachable.

He says city staff found housing for one man, but he insisted on leaving to sleep under cars. Day after day, they’d search him out and take him back to his new home.

“They did it 75 times, but they had the patience and they didn’t give up on him and, eventually, he ended up staying in the house,” he says. “Ultimately, people do want a roof over their heads.”

Housing Benefits Caught In The Crossfire Of Political Infighting

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is targeting housing benefit to pay for a climb down over tax credit changes, according to The Sunday Times. Mr. Osborne has faced stiff resistance from both political opponents and Conservative rebels over plans to slash tax credits for millions of working families.

Under plans announced in the Summer budget, around three million working families would lose £1,300 a year in vital income. Osborne is looking to save £4.4bn from the tax credits bill, as part of a £12bn cut in overall welfare spending.

The Chancellor proposed increasing the taper rate for Universal Credit to reduce the impact of the cuts, meaning those affected would lose 75p of each pound taken home over the earnings threshold – rather than 65p. Opponents argue that the move would undermine work incentives by removing the principle that Universal Credit rewards people for moving into work or taking on more hours.

However, it was reported that Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, threatened to resign if Osborne raided the Universal Credit budget to offset his cuts. Allies of IDS say he has managed to fend off the Chancellor, who is now said to be targeting deeper cuts to housing benefit instead.

Iain Duncan Smith is reportedly looking at a social housing shared ownership scheme, in an attempt to bring down the £24.6bn housing benefit bill. Tenants living in social housing for longer than three years will be offered 70% of the equity in the home and rent the remaining 30%.

Meanwhile, Osborne is said to be bringing forward plans to increase the income personal tax allowance.

But Conservative rebel, Stephen McPartland, said: “The simple fact is that for those families on very low incomes, these changes will hurt them not help them.” Mr. McPartland also revealed figures obtained from the House of Commons Library, showing that hundreds of thousands of people claiming child tax credit would also be affected.

“The Chancellor now has to come forward with measures not only to mitigate the effects of the changes to tax credits, but to guarantee to protect families’ child tax credits”.

A government source told the Sunday Times: “Iain’s won the day. No one wants him resigning. Housing benefit is now being looked at instead.” However, they warned that less severe cuts to tax credits are still likely to go ahead. “There are still questions around universal credit but you’re not going to see anything like 75p”, they said.

Jilted Bride Invites Homeless To The Non-Wedding Reception

A jilted bride saw past her heartbreak and threw her planned wedding reception for the benefit of her local homeless community instead.

Quinn Duane, 27, was due to tie the knot with Landon Dorup on the 17th of October in Sacramento, USA. But the groom-to-be got cold feet and called off the wedding at the last moment.

But, rather than seeing the plans go to waste, Quinn’s family decided to go ahead with the $35,000 (£22,000) reception anyway. Deposits had already been paid to the four-star Citizen Hotel and with more bills due to come, a cancellation would have seen food for 120 guests go to waste.

Guests at the extravagant feast came from the shelter Next Move and included families with babies and young children, single people and grandparents. Among the 90 homeless visitors who did attend were Rashad Abdullah, his wife Erika Craycraft and their five children. Ms. Craycraft said: “To lose out on something so important to yourself and then give it to someone else is really giving, really kind.”

Quinn’s mum, Kari, commented, “I went into action mode. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to give to them.”

Quinn was unable to attend the meal because she was too busy packing for her pre-booked honeymoon to Belize shortly afterwards. The flowers from the ceremony were donated to local nursing homes.

‘Wet House’ Idea To Be Tried In Australia

A programme involving dispensing alcohol, just like medication, may be an answer to problems associated with homeless people battling chronic drink problems, say researchers. A new report, Feasibility of a Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) for Sydney’s homeless, has been prepared by St Vincent’s Hospital and funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

Unlike here in the UK, in Australia housing and other services targeting the homeless require abstinence before they will work with them. However, participants in the new scheme would be provided with housing, health and social services at a centre where they’d also be supplied with a standard drink hourly from 7am to 10pm.

Most alcohol-related services in the UK do not allow their clients to drink while on the premises. But, in the late 1970s, ‘wet’ projects were established in response to the recognition that for some homeless heavy drinkers this was an unrealistic requirement that excluded them from services and did nothing to address concerns over street drinking.

MAPs lead researcher, Dr. Nadine Ezard, said: “Alcohol dependent homeless people experience higher rates of chronic illness, injuries and assaults, longer hospital stays, increased mortality, and higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system. Many also suffer from mental illness and alcohol-related brain injury.”

The researchers reviewed the evidence on MAPs and conducted a small survey of potential MAP users in Sydney to estimate the costs and savings in setting one up a pilot 15-person facility in the city. They found the costs would easily be offset by medical, criminal justice, and crisis accommodation savings, estimating a net benefit of at least $485,000.

Those surveyed were asked about a day shelter or a residential facility that either allowed bring-your-own alcohol or provided one drink every hour for 15 hours a day. Most indicated a strong interest in a MAP, preferably for the residential model, being prepared to pay up to 90 per cent of their income where alcohol was provided.

Noting public nuisance and cost savings, Dr. Ezard said one participant had taken part in a short-term withdrawal program 116 times. MAPs could also prevent people from drinking “non-beverage alcohol” such as methylated spirits or hospital hand wash.

Dr. Ezard concluded: “We are trying to start a dialogue, very much from a public health, harm reduction perspective, and put forward an alternative for policymakers.”

Excel Open New Services For Veterans

 

In a timely nod to the sacrifices made by our armed forces on Remembrance Day, Excel Housing Solutions have opened new facilities to provide supported accommodation for some of Liverpool’s ex-services personnel.

Jenny Barnes, from Excel, said: “We have recently opened two services for veterans with support needs. All the properties are shared and fully furnished to a high standard.”

There is a real, and growing, need for this kind of support. Figures released by the MoD reveal 5,076 soldiers were found to have “mental health disorders” in 2013 – 28 per cent higher than in 2011. Early statistics from the first half of 2014 suggest the number is set to rise again.

The charity Combat Stress, which supports veterans with mental health issues said: “This increase is mainly accounted for by a marked rise in those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help.”

Some 2,264 personnel have requested treatment, with three-quarters said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an average of six veterans per day over the last 12 months. Many are also affected by depression and abuse of alcohol and drugs, symptoms associated with the condition.

Jenny also commented: “We have established working partnerships with Liverpool Veterans HQ, who do a fabulous job in supporting all veterans in the community.”

For more information, go to Excel’s website www.excelhousingsolutions.com

You can also support our veterans and their families by donating tinned goods and toys to their ‘Christmas Food & Toy Appeal’. For more information go to www.liverpoolveterans.co.uk