Tackling homelessness together

According to recent statistics shared by Shelter, one in every 200 people in Britain is homeless. This shocking figure worsens in Greater Manchester with one in every 135 people without a place to live. Without question, more must be done across the UK to try and combat this issue.

Reducing homelessness should be at the forefront our agenda as a country. The government, private businesses and local authorities should all feel the burden of this extensive social problem and work collaboratively together to bring about change.

Effective partnerships between these organisations could lead to increased housebuilding levels, better community resources and greater support for the vulnerable, all of which may go some way to eradicating homelessness.

Increasing social housing stock

The most imperative task that needs to be addressed if we are to get people off the streets is to increase the number of social homes available. Although much easier said than done, this doesn’t always mean building new homes from the ground up – currently, the UK government does not allocate sufficient funds to achieve this.

Instead, house builders could focus on delivering good quality homes as quickly as possible to get vulnerable people in safe and secure housing. Currently, there are more than 600,000 empty properties across the UK that could be used to create additional social homes.

Another way to reduce homelessness in a timely manner is to invest in shared accommodation. Houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) and other shared housing schemes are viable options that can go some way to counteracting the lack of social housing available.

If properties are transformed into good quality living spaces that reflect the Decent Homes Standard, they can offer individuals a safe place to reside when they find themselves without anywhere to live.

Improving community resources

Homelessness is a nationwide issue, although some areas are worse affected than others. In 2017, Greater Manchester’s Metro Mayor Andy Burnham announced plans to try to eliminate rough sleeping altogether by 2020. This is a powerful strategy, promising £3.8m worth of services to support areas tackling homelessness. Suggested improvements include investing in temporary accommodation and creating more facilities where homeless people can go to for support.

Initiatives like this are the key in the fight against homelessness. Alongside having a stable residence, people also require resources that will help to integrate them back into society. Investment into community groups, healthcare services and training or education schemes will ensure that vulnerable people can access the help they need to improve their lives.

Preventing future cases

A recent study by homelessness charity, Centrepoint, found that more than 5,000 young people aged 16-24 approached Greater Manchester councils for help in 2017/18 because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness. From this, it’s clear that steps are not being taken to prevent the problem. Tackling health and wellbeing and improving care services, particularly in deprived areas, is key to identifying potential cases of homelessness and preventing them from materialising.

All councils and local authorities nationwide would benefit from strengthening strategic partnerships with private developers, businesses, housing associations and care providers to ensure that the overall quality of life for vulnerable people, especially young people, is a priority. A plan of action to integrate them back into communities is essential if we are to tackle the problem head on and try to prevent further homelessness.

What next?

Councils cannot rectify this issue alone and require greater support from Westminster. Like so many social issues, the key to tackling the problem is political will. Currently, government plans for UK housing does not send a message of confidence and stability – housing ministers are changing too often while the amount of money pledged to increase housing stock is insufficient. Improved support, socially and financially, as part of strategic collaborations are vital if we are to make a real difference.

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