Today a Facebook friend sent me the following invitation: “Have you asked your MP to be at the Homelessness Reduction Bill debate? Click to email them now: www.crisis.org.uk/nooneturnedaway-fb. If it gets passed, the Homelessness Reduction Bill will stop homeless people being turned away when they approach their council for help. But unless at least 100 MPs attend this first debate, parliamentary rules mean that just one MP will be able to kill the bill. 25 MPs have said they’ll be there so far – please help persuade yours to come too”, which I happily signed and duly sent, but it all got me thinking.
As people who read my blogs know, homelessness is one of the issues that not only concerns me but is one where I am involved in some of the activities to help the homeless (for example, in less than two hours time, I will be attending a homeless soup kitchen (Soup Spirit), where I anticipate we will be engaging with some fifty homeless and vulnerable folk in my home town). The opening sentences of the Crisis Executive Summary reads: “At Crisis we believe that everyone deserves the appropriate support and assistance to resolve their homelessness. It is an isolating and frightening experience and homeless people are too often invisible, ignored and forgotten. From its earliest days in 1967, Crisis has campaigned for single homeless people to be given a right to housing. Almost forty years since the homelessness legislation was introduced, the law still fails to give the majority of people proper access to the housing and support they need to prevent and end their homelessness”, a sentiment I concur with.
The opening sentences in its proposed solution reads ”We believe that it is vital that the legislation is expanded to increase the entitlements for single people in order to effectively tackle homelessness. Crisis therefore recommends that a much stronger duty be placed on local authorities to provide a more robust and tailored package of support to help prevent and relieve homelessness for all households at a much earlier point. A greater focus on preventing homelessness over time should, based on the Welsh experience, reduce the numbers of people who lose their home and require an offer of settled accommodation under the main homelessness duty. By reducing this demand, it is our vision that in the long term, the legislation should be reformed to remove the priority need categories altogether, creating a truly universal model of support and entitlement for all homeless households”.
The needs of the homeless are complex and many and sadly many are their own worst enemies when it comes to being accommodated (but that is also part of the problem). While it is possible to make a difference helping those who face this predicament, and there are many organizations around that do help, the big frustration is that the biggest need of most, i.e. basic, reasonable accommodation remains unmet. While there is a need to study the detail of the Crisis proposal, I am convinced the points it raises and proposals it puts forward are in essence sound as well as compassionate, and deserve our support. I hope our MPs will give this the attention warranted.