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News in Brief 144: June – July 2023

June 01 2023
Our bi-monthly round up of what's been happening...
By Bronagh Sheridan

Benefit maze

Many in the government insist the benefits system is working and easy to navigate. But £19bn a year in welfare benefits is going unclaimed in the UK, according to the Guardian. Millions of UK households are missing out on benefits they qualify for, amidst a crushing cost of living crisis. Analysis by Policy in Practice suggests the complexity of the benefits system, and a lack of public awareness of what support is available, explain the unclaimed benefits. Many readers of the Pavement will be familiar with the difficulty signing up for Universal Credit, so will be unsurprised to learn the benefit makes up a staggering 41% of unpaid benefits.

Ship idea

The Guardian understands that the Home Office plans to acquire a fleet of ships to house asylum seekers, in a move previously considered unviable by the government. The new plan is to use 10 redundant cruise ships, ferries and barges to house asylum seekers in ports dotted around the country. Tory backbenchers have pressured the Home Office to find an off-land alternative, because they don’t want asylum seekers housed in accommodation in their constituency. There is a massive backlog of asylum seekers needing processing. In late April there were 138,052 undecided asylum cases in the UK.

Nifty fifty

© the Pavement
Congratulations to Homeless Diamonds, the arts magazine for people experiencing homelessness connected to St Mungo’s services. The magazine celebrated its 50th issue in April, a remarkable achievement. The landmark was celebrated with a special issue of the magazine, which features work by artists who have also contributed to the Pavement. Visit the Homeless Diamonds website here:

Police watchdog

The Metropolitan Police shot and killed two dogs in May, despite the dogs being on leads. Their owner, a young man experiencing homelessness, was tasered by the police while his dogs were shot dead. Footage of the incident in east London caused outrage, with a petition to bring criminal charges against the police officers who killed the dogs gaining almost 150,000 signatures before the Pavement went to press. The Evening Standard reports two complaints about the shooting are being assessed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Making space

Plans revealed by the Spanish Government in April aim to help millions of young people into their own rented homes. The government approved plans to make up to 50,000 abandoned homes, held by the Sareb bank, available for affordable rent. Reading the fine print of the plans, only 9,000 homes are ready for rent at the moment. The move comes amid a rent crisis in Spain, as Raquel Sanchez Jiménez, Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, was quoted as saying on RTÉ, “young people and the not-so-young can't pay for their rented apartments.”

Staying power

The homeless communities camping in Oregon will be empowered with the right to sue anyone up to US$1,000 if told or forced to move on, should a new bill pass, reports the Telegraph. Lawmakers in Oregon want to decriminalise homeless camps in the hopes of redirecting resources away from policing. Instead, they want to put the money towards targeting the root causes of homelessness, such as housing shortages. With one of the highest rates of homelessness in America, those pushing this bill hope to make the difficulty of being homeless slightly easier by reducing the fear of being moved on and their possessions being thrown away or discarded by police.

NY News

© Bella Huang
This was the scene in New York in early May, as people mourned the killing of Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old homeless man. He died on the city’s subway, choked to death by an ex-marine, named Daniel Penny. There was outrage in the city when police let the ex-marine go after questioning, before Penny eventually turned himself in over a week later. He faces a second-degree manslaughter charge. The killing sparked mass protests, becoming a flashpoint in debates over inequality and race. Neely is black and Penny is white. Outrageously, lawyers for Penny claimed he was acting in self-defence, despite video footage of the incident suggesting otherwise.

Dentist details

In his free time, the London-based dentist Hussam Lone helps people experiencing homelessness or poverty by providing free oral healthcare. Hussam started off by giving free samples of toothpaste and toothbrushes. He noticed a change this year with increasing living costs, as more people were coming to ask for oral products, not just for themselves, but for their families too. Hussam regularly visits a range of shelters and community hubs, such as a homeless shelter in Thornton Heath and churches across south east and south London, arranging follow up appointments for anyone needing dental treatment. Hussam spoke to the Metro about the need for dental healthcare to be more accessible, understanding that when people are strapped for cash, dental care falls lower on their list of priorities to spend money on. If you want dental advice, Hussam has a confidential email address, where people can communicate their questions at any time. His email is:

Sleep out

Bethany Christian Trust marked its 40th anniversary with an expanded Big Bethany Sleep Out. The sleep out invites individuals and communities to sleep outdoors for the night, raising awareness and money in support of homeless people in Scotland. For the past 20 years the sleep out has taken place in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but this year’s event, held on 24 March, was also hosted by Aberdeen. The charity organised numerous activities for participants in each location, and aimed to raise £40,000 from the night. The annual Big Bethany Sleep Out event has raised more than £400,000 for the charity in the past 20 years.

Make them count

© the Pavement
In late April the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) held its annual vigil for people who have died while experiencing homelessness (see page 5). The vigil coincides with the latest release of figures from the museum’s Dying Homeless Project, which found 1,313 people died while experiencing homelessness in the UK in 2022. The deaths are verified by MoH through a freedom of information request, coroner's report, charity or family member. The heartbreaking total represents a devastating 85% increase on the corresponding figure in 2019.
You can read the full report on the MoH website here:


A popular medical practice for homeless people in Glasgow has closed. The Hunter Street homeless practice, which had been running for almost 20 years, closed on 31 March, with its 166 patients invited to transfer to a new GP based on their postcode. Concerns have been raised over the closure, reports STV News. The Deep End Group of GPs, who work in practices serving the most vulnerable people in Glasgow, say there has been a lack of consultation over the closure. There have also been suggestions the new GPs wouldn’t be able to deliver the required care to their new patients. You can join a GP for free and you don’t need a permanent address.

Sleeping stone

An out-of-use care home in West Lothian has been renovated into affordable housing for young people facing homelessness. Scottish youth homelessness charity Rock Trust has partnered with Almond Housing Association to transform the former care home into two shared-living homes. Speaking to Edinburgh Live, Katie Holt, Live and Work Project Worker at Rock Trust, said: “Many of the new residents will be living independently for the first time, so we will also support them to learn skills such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, anything to help them make a success of their living situation and help them in the future.”

Banking on it

A young dad in Edinburgh is raising funds for clothing banks across the city. Conner Walker, 21, slept rough in Edinburgh in 2020, before being offered temporary accommodation in a B&B. He now lives with his young family in a council flat. While experiencing homelessness, Conner says he relied heavily on food and clothing banks. He told Edinburgh Live: “It came to my head one night that I could make a difference in people's lives and help people. So I made a fundraiser to try and help others, and it's my way of giving back to the clothing banks and charities that helped me.”

New Social Bite Cafe

Social Bite have opened their new Glasgow Coffee Shop at 10 Sauchiehall Street. The city centre shop offers free breakfast and take away dinner every day of the week. Pop in on Wednesdays at 4:30pm for the Social Supper – a great chance to connect with others over a coffee and hot meal.