As the Chief Executive of The Society of St James, a homelessness charity based in Hampshire, I welcome the latest report by the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, which provides a comprehensive and urgent analysis of the current situation and the actions needed to end rough sleeping for good.
The report, Turning the Tide on Rising Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, acknowledges the remarkable achievements of the Everyone In initiative, which supported over 37,000 people who were sleeping rough or at risk of rough sleeping during the pandemic and in which SSJ played its part alongside local partners. However, it also warns that the Government will not meet its target to end rough sleeping by 2024, unless it addresses the underlying causes and systemic issues that are driving homelessness and rough sleeping in England.
According to the report, rough sleeping has increased by 26% in 2022, and the number of households living in temporary accommodation is the highest since records began. The report identifies three key challenges that need to be tackled: a severe shortage of affordable housing, especially social rented housing; a lack of statutory support services for people with complex needs; and a cost of living crisis that is pushing more and more people into homelessness. Sadly, this all too accurately echoes our local view of the situation.
The report also sets out three key principles that should guide the next administration’s approach to homelessness and rough sleeping: prevention, early intervention and meaningful offers. These principles resonate with our vision and values at The Society of St James, where we believe that everyone deserves a home and a chance to rebuild their lives.
In Hampshire, we have seen first-hand the impact of the pandemic on homelessness and rough sleeping. We have also witnessed the power of collaboration and innovation in responding to this crisis. We have worked closely with local authorities, health services, housing providers and other voluntary sector organisations to ensure that people who were sleeping rough or at risk of rough sleeping were offered safe and suitable accommodation and support.
One of the key elements of our strategy is delivering trauma-informed care, which means recognising and understanding the impact of trauma on people’s lives and providing support that is respectful, compassionate and empowering. Trauma-informed care helps us to build trusting relationships with our clients and to support them in their recovery journey. This is particularly important for clients presenting with complex needs and multiple disadvantage.
Another important aspect of our strategy is ensuring that there is ring-fenced property available for those with a history of homelessness. This means that people who have experienced homelessness have access to affordable and secure housing that meets their needs and preferences. We believe that housing is a human right and a foundation for recovery.
We are proud of what we have achieved so far, but we know that there is still much more to do. We are committed to working with our partners and stakeholders to end homelessness and rough sleeping in Hampshire and beyond. We urge the Government to listen to the recommendations of the Kerslake Commission and to take decisive action to turn the tide on this national emergency.
View the full report here www.commissiononroughsleeping.org/news/commission-report-2023/