Our 2017 review of the homelessness sector analyses the capacity, support and services available to single people who become homeless in England. It looks at the changing demand for those services, as well as changes to funding and provision, and examines topical issues faced by the sector.
How are we supporting single homeless people in England?
The recent extreme weather has brought homelessness into the spotlight. We have seen high levels of media coverage and, rightfully, public outcry about the risks facing people sleeping rough in such cold temperatures.
While we have welcomed the focus, we’ve also taken the opportunity to remind people that homelessness happens at all times of the year. Across the country, hundreds of services work tirelessly to offer a range of support to people to help them find somewhere safe to call home.
This year’s Annual Review of Support for Single Homeless People, published on 13 March, serves as an important piece of evidence to help us understand exactly what these diverse services do. The homelessness sector works with people who require support unique to their individual circumstances, and the Review provides a comprehensive picture of those seeking this support.
Reduction in support available
Against a backdrop of increasing levels of homelessness, the data indicates a reduction in the availability of support for single homeless people over the past year, and marks a continuation of the downward trend in the number of accommodation projects and bed spaces, as previous reports highlight.
Together, accommodation based services provide 34,497 bed spaces at any one time, and there are 196 day centres currently operation throughout England. This reflects a slight decrease in capacity in both types of service.
Range of support
Accommodation providers and day centres deliver a wide variety of services to the clients who access them, as people will rarely just need support with their housing. The report shows the range of activities and interventions offered, from life skills training, welfare and debt advice to drug and alcohol services, and includes a number of detailed service case studies.
Diversity of service users
Worryingly, we still see high levels of young people in accommodation based services, as well as other vulnerable groups. 44% of those using services are aged under 25, nearly 30% are women and 20% are prison leavers.
As the Government takes a stronger focus on homelessness prevention, we must ensure that all factors that put these and other groups at risk of homelessness are fully considered and addressed.
Pressure on resources
This year’s research also tells us that the sector continues to develop and respond despite continued pressure on financial resources. 39% of accommodation providers reported a decrease in funding, whereas 15% reported an increase, compared to last year.
Anyone in the sector will know budget pressures are not new, but as the Government considers proposals on the funding of supported accommodation, the urgency of finding a solution that offers greater security for the future is clear.
The ambition that everybody has somewhere safe and suitable to live and the support needed to keep it, is at the heart of the homelessness sector’ work. We know that ‘move-on’ from services is one of the biggest challenges facing homeless people today: low benefit levels alongside high housing costs restrict the options available to many.
However, the Annual Review shows us that 63% of the 10,544 people accommodated by the participating projects moved on over the past 12 months. 74% of accommodation providers continue to support individuals after they move on from their services. It is essential we carry on supporting the sector in this work, as well as challenge the structural barriers that often make this process so difficult.
We hope you’ll take the time to reflect on this year’s report and what this means for services in your area. We encourage you to use it to inform service development, commission plans and help with your own fundraising activities.
Finally, a sincere thank you to all of the agencies who took time to share their data and experiences with us. Homelessness is in the spotlight and this evidence helps us make a stronger case for the investment, strategy and practical change, which is needed to end it for good.
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Rick is the CEO of Homeless Link and was appointed to that role in July 2012. He is a member of the government’s National Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel and the London Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Task Group.
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