Sunday 2 September 2018

Homelessness – an issue that is not going away any time soon

National statistics issued in January showed a 268% increase in homelessness in England between 2010 and 2017.

This is a shocking rise, and is a damning indictment of where society is heading as regards to housing.

Homelessness is more than just those who rough sleep, but the rough sleepers are the obvious sign that housing needs are not being met. Walk down the High Street on any given day and you will be confronted by the sad sight of those seeking refuge in shop doorways and under the railway bridge.

Southend-on-Sea is ninth in the league of local authorities as regards to the number of rough sleepers. The stats show a 64% rise in rough sleeper numbers in a year. In some ways we are a victim of our success when it comes to giving succour to those without homes.

As austerity grinds on (over eight years now) we see cuts year on year to all sorts of agencies that were there to help. Now we often see skeleton services, and one wonders whether all will survive as austerity is promised for a few more years yet.

We do not have enough social housing, The number of council homes is at a new record low, with fewer properties to rent from local authorities than at any point in almost 50 years.

Social house building plummeted after the introduction of the right to buy for council tenants. Local authorities were not allowed to re-invest funds in new housing stock, and with the virtual giving away of new homes under the right to buy scheme there was almost no incentive for local authorities to build.

With high house price values, high rents, and a shortage of low-cost accommodation the homelessness issue is not going away soon. Add in the abundance of low-wage jobs with uncertain hours, and the rise in substance abuse, and the challenge is enormous. Unless government tackles the issue, and the causes, we will have to get used to seeing more and more sleeping rough.

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St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition