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One step forward, one step back: aid for the homeless

Written By Beth Webb-Strong 15 Apr 2018
One step forward, one step back: aid for the homeless

After concerns that people sleeping rough would put the royal wedding guests off their dinner, there have been efforts to reduce homelessness in Windsor. Proposed measures mean rough sleepers could face a fine of up to £100 which is not only dismissive of their situation, but an entirely futile penalty upon penniless people. This week (April 3rd 2018) the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force, a far more humane measure which aims to tackle homelessness. However, it still seems to fail to look to the root causes of this growing social issue.

The Act imposes duties upon councils to take steps to prevent and relieve homelessness. It will also require councils to help people who are at risk of being homeless; individuals will be referred by prisons, hospitals and job centres. The measures have had an initial success in Southwark, where the scheme has been piloted for the last year; the number of households kept in temporary homes has halved in a year. However, the Council spent almost double the £1 million grant given by the government. Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s deputy leader, has said the Act may turn out to be “the sticking plaster on the severed artery” of homelessness.

Charities have been quick to welcome the legislative response. Homelessness is a rising concern with official figures showing rough sleeping is up 169% since 2010. However, despite the good intentions behind the legislation, its practical implementation will not be possible on the current funding plans.

Charities have warned that the Act’s impact will be stunted by welfare reforms and council funding cuts. There simply won’t be enough money to fund new measures as Shadow Housing secretary John Healey asserts “legislation can’t remove homelessness and ministers must now tackle the root causes which means making good on deep cuts to funding, strengthening legal rights for private renters and building many more new social rented homes”. Although it is not supported by funding, the Act still shows a recognition of this social issue and a desire to spark change.

It seems this week marks a small step forward for the nation and a step backwards for Nottingham. Just hours after the Act came into force, it was reported that the homeless vending machine installed in intu Broadmarsh in Nottingham this December for a trial period is set to be removed. The vending machine was installed by Action Hunger to provide basic products such as socks and sanitary towels to rough sleepers in Nottingham. It is not clear whether Nottingham City Council influenced this decision which has been described as “a well-meaning but misguided and ill-informed attempt to address complex problems” by council officials. The trial seems to have been met positively, as 70 people picked up cards to use the machine from the 100 that were available.

The removal of this vending machine is a setback in both providing assistance for rough sleepers in Nottingham and raising awareness about the issue of homelessness. It is hoped that Nottingham will be receptive to charitable projects like this vending machine in the future and that greater funding will be invested in schemes like the Homelessness Reduction Act measures. In the meantime, if you want to help effect change yourself, however small, there are a number of things you can do. If you have seen a rough sleeper in Nottingham you can alert Framework so they can offer support by calling 0800 066 5356 (24/7, free from landlines and mobiles). Last winter Framework and Nottingham City Council helped 193 rough sleepers to find accommodation. You can also donate money, clothes, food or time: see Help Out Nottingham for ideas. Lastly, please consider buying one of the packs in our online shop which are distributed to homeless shelters.

Written by Beth, People of the Streets CIC For helpful resources on where to seek advice, please see below:

There are four different packs on our online shop that you can buy to help the homeless: The keep dry pack, the keep warm pack, the freshen up pack (female) and the freshen up pack (male). These are distributed to shelters across the UK.


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