In the third blog in his 'Hope in the time of coronavirus' series, our CEO James tackles the issue of housing rights, and examines the challenges we still face in ensuring everyone has the right to a home.
As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold earlier this year, and messages instructing people to ‘stay at home’ for their own safety were made by the government, the issue of the human right to housing has been pulled into sharp focus.
For those people who were sleeping rough on the streets ‘staying home’ was obviously impossible.
At least 15,000 people who were sleeping rough have been given temporary shelter but far larger numbers are now at risk of losing their homes; the Big Issue has estimated up to 500,000 people could be facing homelessness after the eviction ban ends at the end of June.
The first generation of human rights dealt mainly with issues of liberty; the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion and the right to vote. The thinking behind these rights goes back hundreds of years and it is, thankfully, no longer possible to question them and still be taken seriously in our society.
The ‘right to housing’ is a second generation human right, as declared by article 25 of the Universal Declaration of human rights in 1948.
Sadly we see toleration of violations of this particular right as normal, evidenced not least by the fact there have still been people who are homeless in our society ever since this right was declared.
This alone tells us that there is still much work to be done to ensure everyone’s right to a home is met.
The UK has taken a rights-based approach to tackling housing and homelessness. We have laws that give some people who are homeless a right to be re-housed, a right not to be discriminated against in housing matters, a right not to be evicted in various circumstances and the right, when renting, to a home ‘fit for human habitation’.
Yet given how hard we are still having to fight to prevent homelessness, the ‘right to housing’ remains mainly aspirational as opposed to a statement of fact.
If the right to a home needed any further justification, the argument I find most persuasive is this: That a home is absolutely necessary for us to enjoy the right to life. To have a meaningful ‘right to life’ our bodies must be able to reside in a space where we have a right to simply exist, where we don’t need to justify our presence to anyone and from where we can’t be excluded at another person’s will.
That is to say nothing of the fact that without the shelter and the safety of housing people will die much younger than they would do otherwise.
Wycombe Homeless Connection takes this rights-based approach to housing seriously.
Rights are meaningless unless it is possible for people to access them when they need them.
This week we have announced that we are hiring a new Advocacy Worker to help ensure that people in our community really can ensure that their existing legal rights to housing are respected.
And we are committed to pursuing the aspiration that the places where Wycombe Homeless Connection works become places where there is suitable housing for everyone.
Join the #EveryoneInForGood campaign: write to your MP calling for them to ensure nobody returns or is new to the street, everybody receives support to keep their accommodation and that there is no return to business as usual.