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News in Brief 146: Oct – Nov 2023

October 01 2023
News in Brief by Bronagh Sheridan

Europe update

New research by FEANTSA, the Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, reveals that almost one million people are homeless on any given night in Europe, equivalent to the population of Newcastle. Importantly, this figure only accounts for the visible forms of homelessness, meaning the total number of people experiencing homelessness is likely to be much higher. Ireland has a comparatively high rate of homelessness, as compared with countries like Spain, Finland, Denmark and Poland. Despite pledges across EU member states to reduce homelessness by 2030, only Finland and Denmark have made recognisable progress, with many other countries' homelessness figures growing. Indeed, the number of people seeking accommodation services in Ireland has risen by 40% in two years, demonstrating Ireland's inefficient and dysfunctional housing market. 

Park life: The annual Streets Fest was held in Finsbury Park, London, in early September. The event brings outreach teams, homeless charities and organisations together, with visitors invited to learn more and connect with services. Streets Fest is organised by Streets Kitchen, Haringey Council and Islington Council, with support from a number of local services. If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, keep an eye on the Streets Kitchen instagram,
@streetskitchen, for information on Streets Fest 2024. Image © the Pavement

New asylum policies

The Home Office has released a new policy, a reduction of the “move on” period given to asylum seekers to find somewhere to live before being removed from their accommodation, making asylum seekers homeless. These changes mean that asylum seekers now have as little as a week to find accommodation after their claim is accepted. A support worker with Merseyside Refugee Support Network said that he hadn’t seen this level of demand during his 13 years of working within this line of work, highlighting the drastic pressure this new policy is putting on the refugee services. It is also set to put a strain on all wider services, including healthcare. In reaction to these changes, the Refugee Council organised an open letter, signed by 140 homeless and refugee organisations, calling on the Home Office to reverse these new policy changes to allow people more time to get on their feet.

Kip on the Kop

People were invited to stay the night at Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium in early September, to raise funds for the LFC Foundation’s work with homeless people. Similar to other ‘sleep out’ events, people brought a sleeping bag and set fundraising targets, with the money going to the LFC Foundation’s Global Works project. Global Works runs sports-based employability sessions and mentoring for young people with experience of homelessness. The project also runs Liverpool Homeless FC, a 5-a-side football team for people affected by homelessness in the city.

Records, system broken

Official figures published by the Scottish government show there were 9,595 children homeless and living in temporary accommodation in Scotland, as of March 2023. It is a miserable record broken, representing the highest number of children experiencing homelessness since records began in 2002. Meanwhile, the total number of open homelessness cases increased by 15% from 2021-22 to 29,652. The trend continued with increases in homelessness applications and households reported rough sleeping. In better news, cost of living legislation introduced in October 2022 contributed to a decrease in households being made homeless from private rented accommodation.

Picture perfect:
The previous issue of the Pavement featured a story on the process to select pictures for the upcoming My London 2024 calendar. The selection process is now complete, with the 2024 calendar available for pre-order. A panel including past participants in the Cafe Art project was tasked with choosing 25 photos from more than 2,000 submitted for consideration. These 25 pictures were then put to the public, who voted for the winners.
Learn more about Cafe Art and its My London project on its website here:
Image © Paul Ryan

No room

A Glasgow Times investigation found homeless people in the city are being turned away by the council and left to sleep rough. The council has a statutory duty to provide accommodation to people who approach the council as homeless, but on at least four nights in late August there were no available rooms. The Glasgow Times spoke to a homeless man who slept rough for four nights in a row. Speaking to the paper in late August, he said: “Last night I just walked around the city. I’m shattered and my legs are killing me.” Alan Hamilton, operations manager at Homeless Project Scotland, commented the lack of accommodation “is a breach of the homelessness legislation and it is not acceptable.”

Bad to worse

As councils across Scotland desperately search for suitable accommodation for homeless people, a residential unit for homeless people in Glasgow is set to close. Eskdale House has space for 40 men, but is slated for closure in early October. Campaigners fear there is no suitable accommodation for the residents of Eskdale House to move into, leaving more people homeless and faced with sleeping rough. Quoted in the Glasgow Evening Times, campaign co-ordinator for the Scottish Tenants Association, Sean Clerkin, argued “it is clear that the large cuts to homeless services is severely damaging to homeless people in the city and must be reversed with more monies being given to deal with the growing housing and homeless emergency in Glasgow.”

Student digs

Students in Edinburgh have been made homeless and forced to sofa-surf, amid an accommodation crisis in the city. Purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) rent stands at an average £230 per week in Edinburgh, according to STV News, with average monthly rents for students in the capital increasing by 30% since 2022. Meanwhile, the gap between demand and supply grows, with more students and fewer beds. Ellie Gomersall, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, has urged students facing homelessness to find support: “I would say to any student who is in that situation [having no accommodation] to reach out to your university, your college or student association.”

Uni days:
A fresh start for film director David Fussell, who was accepted on to a BA honours film degree at Falmouth University in September. Having previously slept rough on Tottenham Court Road for 10 years, he will now live in student halls. Quoted in Westminster Extra, Fussell credited the Salvation Army with helping him organise the paperwork and application required to join the course. To support his film-making and studies, Fussell is also selling My London calendars, a project he has previously had his own photography featured in (see a winning entry by Fussell above). Speaking to the Pavement, Fussell explained: “Four years working only on my film-making and learning the business from professionals is what I need.”

Progress made

Positive news from Midlothian, where council reliance on temporary accommodation has dropped significantly. The number of people placed in temporary accommodation by the council has fallen by nearly 50% in five years, dropping from 1,082 people on 31 March 2018 to 587 on 31 March 2023. In that five-year span, 129 households have had their temporary accommodations converted to permanent, secure housing. Furthermore, the introduction of the Housing First initiative in Midlothian has seen 57 homeless applicants progress to permanent homes, reports Scottish Housing News.

B&B Limbo

An Edinburgh mum and her five children have had to live in a hotel room for two months, relying on dry and kettle-based food. Edinburgh Live’s story detailed how the family had been awaiting a temporary home for 17 months, as of early September. Melanie, 40, has only spoken to her appointed housing officer with Edinburgh Council once in more than 18 months, and has been told the council can’t afford two hotel rooms for her family, leaving the family of six crammed into one Travelodge room.

Monitor musings

The Homelessness Monitor study, funded by Crisis, was released in late August. The study revealed that 290,000 eligible households sought help from local authorities on grounds of homelessness in 2021/22. A staggering 85% of councils across England reported an increase in people experiencing homelessness. The report goes into detail on councils’ struggle finding suitable accommodation, with an ever-dwindling supply of social housing stock affecting councils across the country. Commenting on the study’s findings, Matt Downie, chief executive at Crisis, said: “The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear. The Westminster Government must address the chronic lack of social housing and increase housing benefit, so it covers the true cost of rents.”