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News in brief: March-April 2019

March 01 2019
Good idea to share: A Give One Take One rail offering coats, gloves and vouchers from local shops for free coffees, sandwiches and haircuts. This was operating in Exmouth Market, London. It reached 35,000 people on Facebook. © the Pavement Good idea to share: A Give One Take One rail offering coats, gloves and vouchers from local shops for free coffees, sandwiches and haircuts. This was operating in Exmouth Market, London. It reached 35,000 people on Facebook. © the Pavement
A selection from our magazine's news pages

Rough year

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of homeless people dying has increased by 24% in the five years from 2013 to the end of 2017. The ONS estimated that 482 homeless people died in 2013, while 597 died in 2017. The figures, reported by the BBC, take into account identified deaths and a smaller estimation of unidentified deaths, but charities often warn that official estimates are unreliable and that the figures are too low.

Responding to the news, Homeless Link CEO Rick Henderson said: “Homelessness is a key health inequality and one of the causes of premature death. But we know that homelessness is preventable.”

Football beds

Crystal Palace FC, the London-based Premier League club, opened their stadium to some of the city’s rough sleepers in January. As the winter freeze intensified, the club welcomed up to 10 people sleeping rough in the event of a severe weather warning. According to iNews the club opened one of their lounges and fitted it with beds, also offering food, drink and washing facilities to the rough sleepers. Support workers were also available to the guests. “We are happy to do our bit” said club chief executive Phil Alexander.

Labour pledge

Labour has promised to find an additional £100m funding in efforts to assist rough sleepers in winter. The pledge follows another year of avoidable deaths as rough sleepers battle the cold. Labour believes existing schemes such as the severe weather protocol obliging councils to aid rough sleepers in extreme weather conditions, are failing people sleeping rough. The Guardian notes Labour’s plan includes long- term strategies to help people off the streets permanently, including setting up rough sleepers with support workers.

Glass house opens

From February, for three months, a disused factory on Hornsey Road, Islington is being used as a new winter night shelter with agreement by the owners, Fitzpatrick Team.

It is now a solidarity centre thanks to volunteers and a £25,000 grant from the Mayor of London. Food and services are being provided by Streets Kitchen and Pilion Trust. There is space for 16 people, but when temperatures drop, up to 50 can be accommodated.

Dying homeless

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s #makethemcount campaign stops at the end of March. In October 2017 the team began to log the number of homeless people who had died. To date they have collected the life stories for 581 people. Although some died inside, a shocking number were found dead on the streets, in cars or tents.

Good faith

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) – the youth wing of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association – made headlines over December, with a string of charitable initiatives attracting national attention.

The charity ran a free taxi service for elderly people on Christmas day and provided many meals for homeless people, including around Charing Cross, between Xmas and New Year. The Independent reports that during 2018, AMYA also provided meals to homeless people in cities across the UK, averaging a delivery of 150 meals a week in the UK – around 7,000 meals.

Hub sweet hub

The government has announced plans to open sleeping hubs across England for people who would otherwise be sleeping rough. About £4.2m is being spent on 11 Somewhere Safe To Stay rough sleeping hubs, set to open this spring. An additional four centres will open in 2020, according to The Big Issue. The initial 11 hubs are opening in Brighton, Bristol, Cheshire West & Chester, Derby, Gloucestershire, Lincoln, Liverpool, west London, Medway, Nottingham and Preston. The centres will provide specialist support as well as shelter.

Karma for Kelloway

A Tory councillor in Cardiff was suspended from the party after calling on the council to tear down homeless people’s tents. Kathryn Kelloway, a councillor for Cyncoed in Cardiff, ignorantly complained that the tents should be torn down for the city to have “a better image”. The Cardiff Conservative Group duly suspended her from the party, reports Inside Housing.

Homeless atlas

The newly launched London Homeless Atlas is an interactive website which helps identify what services supporting single homeless people are available in London. You can use it to locate services and find data on a borough-by-borough and London basis. It’s been created by London Housing Foundation and Homeless Link.

Friends reunited

A local charity in leeds has reunited a homeless man with his best friend – his dog, Crystal. Helping Hands, a charity comprised of people who had previously experienced homelessness or addiction, put up posters across the city. Metro reports the search lasted three days. A heart-warming

video of the reunion can be viewed on the news site, as well as Helping Hands’ Facebook @homelessinleeds

Tory confession

James Brokenshire, the Government’s aptly named housing secretary, has suggested that Tory policies may have contributed to the rising number of people being made homeless. Brokenshire told the website Politico that “changes to policy” were necessary, and that the Government “need to ask ourselves some very hard questions.”

The quotes are a reversal from previous comments by the Housing Secretary, who had previously maintained that other factors, including “family breakdown” and rising “drug use” were to blame for the increase in homelessness. Since 2010, the number of rough sleepers has doubled, according to the Government’s own figures.

Despairing statistics

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released data outlining the vulnerability of homeless people to “diseases of despair”. These are deaths, addictions and/or negative symptoms arising from alcohol and/ or drug use, as well as self-harm and/or suicide. Of the 597 homeless people to have died in 2017, more than half (55%) were due to diseases of despair. In comparison, only 3% of deaths among the general population were attributed to diseases of despair.