Decent and affordable housing should be a right.
Today, the government announced its Rough Sleeping Strategy. It is sadly inadequate, as it only likely to address part of the homelessness problem.
Bristol has both a housing crisis and a street homelessness crisis. Our housing charities and council are doing their best but government action is needed to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness as well as to provide sustainable solutions. Much of the problem is hidden – and this must also be addressed.
I’ve seen first-hand the fantastic outreach work carried out by housing charities such as St Mungo’s, who work every day to get street homeless people into accommodation. I hope they will get more funding to expand what they offer. From regular conversations with homeless people in my constituency, I can see these organisations do vital work helping people in a crisis.
However, to properly address homelessness the government must address its underlying causes, including stagnating wages, rising rents, inadequate tax credits and cuts to mental health and addiction services over the last eight years. These are not dealt with by the government’s announcement today. The roll-out of Universal Credit risks making this worse.
The ‘Housing First’ approach is badly needed, whereby homeless people are given housing first, and then the help they need with debt, addiction, mental health or other problems. I’m glad that three other cities have been given the funding to pilot this, but what about Bristol? We know this approach works. Anyone visiting Bristol can see this is now urgent.
Instead of putting efforts into rebranding funding, I urge the government to expand its strategy to deal with the underlying causes of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place.