The Kerslake Commission report “Turning the Tide on Rising Homelessness and Rough Sleeping” published this week, confirms what Wycombe Homeless Connection have been saying for some time: the government is not on track to meet its goal to end rough sleeping by 2024.
Instead, the number of people living on our streets is rising as we said when we launched our urgent appeal.
At the last count, rough sleeping had risen in England by 26% in just 12 months and this is reflected locally - we are now looking after more than 20 people in this devastating situation and planning for a very difficult winter, not least as people are becoming homeless faster than we can find them get the help then need to find or keep their home. We are seeing a huge rise in demand for our services; almost four times as many people are coming to our Support Centre as they were just a few months ago.
In March, we wrote to Buckinghamshire MPs expressing our deep concern about lack of progress in meeting the government's target, and identified a priority action which they could take to turn things around quickly: unfreeze the Local Housing Allowance, which having not been raised for years is not keeping up with increases in rent and doesn’t help people to afford to stay in their home.
In April this year, High Wycombe was reported as having had the largest single annual increase in average rent anywhere in the country at an astonishing 22.4%. The reality is that when rents increase and benefits stay frozen, people are unable to afford their homes and they can become homeless.
Most MPs responded positively to our call for action and we are looking forward to a visit from a member of the Department of Work and Pensions to discuss the situation here in south Bucks and what steps the government can take to make the biggest impact. We’ll share more about this visit soon.
In the meantime, and in light of the Kerslake Report, it is now clear that immediate, effective reform is needed to end rough sleeping and we renew our call to unfreeze the Local Housing Allowance.
Crisis (the national Homelessness charity) have calculated that while this would cost £3.3 billion over three years it would save £5.5 billion through reduced need for temporary accommodation and other services related to homelessness, a net benefit of £2.1 billion.
We still need more social housing and a wide roll out of Housing First, a proven scheme which sees people sleeping rough moved directly into housing and offered support to help them maintain their homes.
Given it is now almost certain the target to end rough sleeping next year will be missed, we must see action taken to end the most extreme forms of poverty, one of which is rough sleeping.
We believe this must be considered a high priority for government.
Our urgent appeal
As mentioned, the amount of people coming to our Support Centre for help has now nearly quadrupled. We need your help to keep our services running to help prevent anyone from becoming homeless and to stop the harm it can do.
Please, give generously. Click here to give.