Tackling homelessness with community action

12 September 2018

In recent months, several government initiatives, such as a pilot project attempting to get rough sleepers into affordable accommodation, have been launched to tackle the UK’s homelessness problem. However, with 2017 figures showing that 300,000 people are sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation, it is going to take some time to really get to grips with this complex issue. For example, ramping up the level and diversity of housing supply will not happen overnight.

In the meantime, human lives are blighted everyday by the health and social consequences that homelessness brings, including premature death, high levels of mental health, family breakdown, and, ultimately, the fragmentation of community life. The cost of emergency, crisis and housing provision is also on the rise. In December 2017, Manchester City Council’s Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee released a report examining the financial impact of the rise of homelessness.

Enhanced policy solutions from central and local government, increased funding and cross-sector collaboration are needed to tackle the growing problem of homelessness. It is hard, however, to see how this will offer comfort to the people living on the street today while these solutions are developed.

Community solutions have the potential to have an immediate impact. Communities can refuse to accept that homelessness is an inevitable consequence of market forces and the housing crisis. By galvanising community involvement and encouraging people to come together to proactively challenge homelessness, we can build a movement for change in which communities are part of the solution.

Crowdfunding platforms are one example of proactive community engagement that can support those who have fallen into homelessness. Beam, for example, uses crowdfunding to help homeless people receive employment training. For one Beam member, nearly 500 people donated funds to help them to take courses to become a gas safety engineer.

Offering spare rooms to homeless people is another possibility. In Calderdale, West Yorkshire, the Horton Housing Association offers a Supported Lodging Scheme to provide spare rooms to young people in need of support.

Supporting partnerships between community action groups and businesses can also help to alleviate homelessness. The Manchester Homelessness Partnership’s board, launched in May 2016, includes members with lived experience, voluntary services, public sector representatives and businesses, aiming to co-produce solutions to homelessness. Since its launch, the Partnership has launched 8 action groups designed to tackle key challenges facing homeless people, including improving mental health, providing employment opportunities and tackling substandard temporary accommodation.

Community-focused organisations play a key role in bringing this vision to life, by gaining the trust of community members and helping them to connect over a common purpose. As we head into autumn and winter, the role of communities in helping people avoid homelessness should not be underestimated.

Joanne is the Director of Housing and Wellbeing at the social justice charity Nacro with a wide-ranging career in housing and regeneration.



No comments yet.