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News in brief 134: Sep – Oct 2021

September 01 2021

Our round-up of what‘s been happening...

Green shoots

Grand Union, an arts organisation based in Birmingham, released a documentary in July on the homeless gardening project, The Growing Project. The Growing Project is a community-led growing scheme working with organisations who support vulnerably-housed people and people experiencing homelessness. The documentary was filmed in four different project locations. Grand Union set up the project in partnership with Spring Housing, Crisis Skylight Birmingham, SIFA Fireside and St Anne’s Hostel.

Sheening armour

Actor Michael Sheen has pledged £10,000 to the charity Arts & Homelessness International. Sheen answered the call for donations from the charity made in late July. The charity offers positive change in people and policy through the arts and creativity. In late July it set up a Crowdfunder to support their work, having struggled in its fundraising efforts since the pandemic. Sheen urged everyone “fortunate enough to make good money” to “step up and help.”

Act update

As of 5 July 2021, the Domestic Abuse Act requires councils to prioritise people made homeless through domestic abuse when assigning accommodation. Under the old legislation, victims needed to be assessed as “vulnerable” and domestic abuse itself was not a stand-alone reason for people to be prioritised. A figure of £1.5m has been allocated to councils to implement this and further changes made to the Domestic Abuse Act include a duty to provide support alongside safe accommodation.

Criminal act

Homelessness charities and housing groups have signed a joint letter demanding changes to the deeply unpopular Police, Crimes, Sentencing & Courts Bill. The coalition says that in its current sorry state, the bill would criminalise “any person staying in a car, van or other vehicle – or indeed has a vehicle parked near where they may be sleeping rough.” Unmoved, MPs voted through the bill in the House of Commons, and it will now be read in the House of Lords. The bill could become law should it progress through the Lords.

Village people update

Welcome news from Manchester, where the homeless charity Embassy has seen its plan for a village of 40 modular homes approved by the Manchester planning committee, according to the BBC. The village will be built along the Bridgewater Canal, and the homes offered exclusively to homeless men.
A similar project  exclusively for women is set to be launched by the charity soon. Issue 132 (May – June) of the Pavement reported that shipping containers would be converted into 40 new homes. Rising costs mean the homes will now be made of bricks and mortar, with the first homes opening in 2022.

National support

More than 100 councils and charities across England are backing Homeless Link’s campaign, Support Don’t Deport. It is calling for the government to scrap new rules that made rough sleeping grounds for cancelling or refusing a person’s right to remain. Aware of the massive repercussions it will pose on people’s safety and status, organisations working with homeless people have been quick to come out against it. Instead of these rules, Homeless Link is calling for increased investment into employment support and immigration advice so non-UK nationals can break the cycle of homelessness.

Olympic champion

Following the success of the first Refugee Olympic Team in 2016, this summer the Tokyo Olympic Village welcomed Cryille Tchatchet alongside 28 other team members from 11 different countries. In an interview with Eurosport, the weightlifter spoke about his journey from homelessness, to representing the refugee community. Now based in the UK, he spent his first months sleeping rough in Glasgow and Brighton after participating in the former’s 2014 Commonwealth Games. After reaching out to the Samaritans, Tchatchet was eventually able to gain refugee status. Tchatchet now works as a community mental health nurse, in tandem with his weightlifting career.

Big plan

This summer, The Big Issue launched a new campaign to prevent ‘an avalanche’ of people from becoming homeless. A nine-point plan has been drawn up, calling for, among other things, the £20 universal credit uplift to become permanent. This demand sits alongside the long-term goals to increase social housing stock and investment into green jobs. This plan comes in the wake of The Big Issue’s recent research, which found that in the first 90 days of this year, one UK household was being made homeless every three-and-a-half hours.


Health problems

Mental health issues among homeless people, or people faced with homelessness in Scotland have more than doubled since 2013, according to official Scottish Government data. The Scotsman report 27% of homeless households in Scotland in the year 2020-21 included somebody experiencing mental health issues, compared with 13% in 2013-14. A total of 7,397 individuals faced with, or experiencing homelessness had mental health issues in the year 2020-21. Scottish Labour's housing spokesman Mark Griffin called the rise, "a damning indictment of both mental health and homelessness policy over recent years." 

Tour de M8

Sir Chris Hoy is encouraging cyclists to join a 60-mile group cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh to raise money for Edinburgh-based homelessness charity Social Bite. The event will take place on 5 September and will be led by Sir Chris himself. Organisers are hoping for upwards of 1,000 participants, whether in the live event or the virtual challenge, with a fundraising target of £1m. The money will be used to fund two new Social Bite villages in the UK, reports Scottish Housing News. The first Social Bite village project was built in 2018, and accommodates homeless people in pre-fabricated houses.