Three issues have been in the national headlines recently: Brexit, Knife Crime and Homelessness. All have come up in meetings of the Coventry Lord Mayor’s Committee Peace for Peace and Reconciliation. This article by Tony Conway, a member of the Committee, focuses on the issue of homelessness, which is now a major issue in Coventry.
Most people will have heard of the play Cathy Come Home which was first screened on BBC TV in 1966. Shelter was launched shortly afterwards.
Shelter the major homeless charity in Britain define homeless people as being in four categories – there can of course be movement across all four at any one time:
- Homeless and Living in Temporary Accommodation. This is the largest group and of course are often not seen.
- Rough Sleeping
- Single hostel spaces
- Homeless and in temporary accommodation that has been arranged by children’s services under the children’s act.
The cause and impact of homelessness is not always straightforward and when someone lives in substandard accommodation it cannot be considered as a home. Children’s Education will suffer with educationalists picking up the pieces. Many families’ homes are overcrowded.
In some respects Britain has world-leading legislation, but it could be argued that this is not backed up by resources and the cuts in social services, benefit reductions, the lack of homes and insecure work will all have an impact.
Coventry City Council
In Coventry the City Council has primary responsibility and will assess people against five main criteria:
- Are they homeless or likely to be homeless in the next 28 days;
- Are they eligible for assistance in England;
- Are they in priority need;
- Are they intentionally homeless;
- Do they have a local connection, if not is there another local authority they should be referred to.
Coventry has a number of priorities. People not in these categories and meeting the above criteria will often not be housed.
The priorities are: pregnant women; families with children; and those that have become homeless due to an emergency such as a flood, gas explosion etc.
Others are only considered to be a priority if they are vulnerable due to being an older person, have a physical or learning disability, having to escape violence or harassment, or having been in the armed services or on being released from a youth offenders institute.
You will see from this the potential for many people – particularly single men – to fall through any safety nets. This explains in part why in Coventry we see so many young me sleeping rough.
In this short article it is impossible to go into great detail, but precarious work (for example fixed term contracts and zero hour contracts) impact on a person’s ability to rent. Universal Credit can put people into debt making them homeless. Cuts in house building programmes and the impact of many new-builds being designated as for students must all be taken into account. Local Authorities have suffered significant cuts in support and the outsourced services to bodies such as the Salvation Army in Coventry will often run out of space.
When you pass a homeless person don’t ignore them – they are people with a story.
Member of Coventry Lord Mayor’s Committee for Peace and Reconciliation