A week is a long time in the news but in the last seven days alone there have been multiple stories and announcements about homelessness; it is good to see the issue being highlighted, in particular by people with influence.
Our CEO James has pulled together the threads for you, so you can see what is happening, what we are doing, and how you can be involved, especially as we head into the last few months before the government’s 2024 deadline to end rough sleeping.
In an interview at the weekend, the Prince of Wales emphasised the need to look beyond rough sleeping and to also focus on preventing homelessness. The prince added that he will be announcing his own five-year project from the Royal Foundation to tackle the issue, including providing social housing on his Duchy of Cornwall estate.
We agree that looking at wider issues of homelessness is right, and you'll know homelessness prevention is central in Wycombe Homeless Connection's work. We also agree that increasing the amount of social housing is urgent and a key priority.
The prince also said that for true success in ending homelessness, central government, local authorities and charities must work together.
At Wycombe Homeless Connection, we place a high priority on collaborating with other organisations in our efforts to prevent homelessness before it starts and if Prince William would like to see collaboration in action, we would welcome a visit!
We actively work with Aylesbury Homeless Action Group, sharing our CEO with them to ensure people facing homelessness have equitable access to help and support no matter where they are in Buckinghamshire. We participate in the Buckinghamshire Homelessness Forum where Buckinghamshire Council meets and liaises with stakeholders like us discussing policy and process updates.
We host a hugely impactful inter-agency meeting where we work together to create action plans for people who are sleeping rough, making sure our clients get the best service possible to bring their homelessness to an end as quickly as possible. Our cutting-edge Housing Legal Clinic brings together local charities including the Hillingdon Law Centre to provide holistic, timely and expert advice to people facing losing their home.
And on a daily basis our team work with colleagues at Connection Support, P3, the Wycombe Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme, doctor’s surgeries, other healthcare professionals and many, many more to be as effective as possible in helping the people we serve.
Despite our efforts, the lack of a unified approach at a national level remains concerning and hinders our efforts locally. A new, intentional, evidence-based approach is vital, especially as so many issues are interacting, putting progress on ending rough sleeping at risk.
The government announced plans this week to prioritise British citizens for social housing. We strongly oppose this measure on a number of grounds, not least that prioritising support on any basis other than housing need will lead to more homelessness.
Raising interest rates to combat inflation may be necessary but a consequence is that mortgage repayments and rents, already unaffordable for so many, will continue to rise. Data released today shows the average UK tenant spends over 28% of their income (before tax) on rent, a ten year high.
Without immediate direct and complementary actions, we are going to see more evictions and homelessness.
So while we believe Prince William has rightly brought up the need for collaboration and co-ordination of efforts, we need see a comprehensive plan from the government to prevent rough sleeping and all forms of homelessness, such as sofa surfing and where people live in emergency and temporary accommodation for months and years.
And one more critical issue might have gone under your radar.
Just last week, we signed a letter to the Prime Minister alongside 32 other leading homelessness charities. The letter has been published and covered by newspapers including the Independent and the Guardian. You can read it here.
Together, we expressed deep concern that the government's target to end rough sleeping by 2024 will not be met not least because, as outlined in the letter, "the charity Homeless Link found that nearly half of the 356 organisations who responded agreed that the rising cost of living means their organisations risk service closures. Cleary the £100m the Chancellor outlined in the Spring Budget, which is due to be spread across the whole of the third sector, is simply not enough."
More funding for charities like us is urgently needed so we can keep doing our work.
We will continue to call for a plan to end homelessness and more funding for charities like us, locally and nationally and if you would like to help, please send this blog to your MP or write to them calling for a coherent plan to be prioritised.
And you can also donate to help us be here for as long as we are needed by giving to our homeless help appeal. Thank you.