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News in Brief 123: Nov-Dec 2019

November 01 2019

News in brief written by Jake Cudsi.

Grim record

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018, the most in a single year on record. The grim figures represent a 22% rise on the number of deaths in 2017. This is also the biggest annual increase since data started being collected in 2013.

Drug related deaths increased by 55% from 2017 to 2018, by far the biggest increase among causes. Overall there were 294 deaths associated with drug abuse, with 131 of those attributed to opiate poisoning. In Birmingham 23 people died – this was the highest number of deaths recorded by a local authority.

Pavement says: Living on the streets can be fatal. With a million people on council house waiting lists where are the homes that people need? That’s why there’s a growing call for the Government to start house building again. In Scotland Housing First has just passed its first milestone (see p6). While TV presenter George Clarke – who fronted C4’s Council House Scandal - is campaigning for 100,000 new council houses to be built every year for the next 30 years. 
Sign the petition on:


Bad photo

Parliament has apologised to a group of people sleeping rough close to the Palace of Westminster in September, for taking individual photos of them while they were asleep. The photos were taken by a cleaning contractor employed by the parliamentary estate, according to the Guardian. A House of Commons spokesperson refused to explain why the pictures were being taken, although they did apologise for “any distress caused” adding that the practice “has been immediately stopped.”

Tooth care: November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month. Visit a dentist if you have an ulcer that hasn’t healed after two weeks or you see a red/white patch in your mouth or you have pain/difficulty when swallowing.


Housing firsts

In Scotland, 120 previously homeless people have now been housed under the groundbreaking Housing First program begun in 2018 writes Jack Hanington. The pathfinder policy aims to provide stable housing as a first step, rather than a last step, in the process of overcoming homelessness. The Scottish Government, working with Social Bite, local authorities, third sector and housing providers, is trying to make Scotland the third country to attempt a nationwide roll out of the Housing First program. Currently it is run in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. By 2021, Housing First aims to provide 830 people with their own home. 


No UC evictions

Living Rent, Scotland’s Tenants Union, is launching a new Glasgow city-wide campaign calling on Housing Associations (HAs) to halt evictions arising from Universal Credit (UC) writes Jack Hanington. Following the Tenants Union’s summer actions against Serco and Mears Group in solidarity with 300 eviction-threatened asylum seekers and refugees, Living Rent will organise across Glasgow to pressure HAs to commit to a No UC Evictions policy. Research from the National Housing Federation showed last year that nearly three-quarters (73%) of tenants on UC are in debt. In 2018/19, evictions of UC claimants from council houses in the UK reached an all-time high. 

Landlords' excuses

Readers of the Pavement will be all too familiar with the difficulties of accessing affordable housing. Our July/August 2019 issue noted Shelter’s report on the rift between councils and social landlords, who weren’t taking on homeless people as prospective tenants. Then in September the Chartered Institute of Housing released a report confirming that social landlords don’t want homeless people as tenants. The study reveals social landlords routinely exclude homeless people from accommodation due to fears over the reliability of universal credit, unmet support needs and a presumption that prospective tenants would find themselves in rent arrears.

New Hackney hostel

Dalston, London, is set to welcome a new hostel for homeless families. Blue Chip Trading Ltd and property developer Hezi Zakai have had plans for the purpose-built 292-room hostel approved and work will start imminently. The hostel looks set to house more than 600 people, and offer 24-hour security, as well as free wi-fi and a launderette. Rooms will come fitted with workstations too, according to the Hackney Citizen. The plan has its detractors, with some councillors arguing this is not ‘temporary’ accommodation as tenants may stay for years in housing not fit for permanent residence. Hackney council will manage the site once work is complete.