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  • Barry Edwards

Tackle rent, tackle homelessness

Homelessness is often caused by inequality resulting in people’s inability to compete in the housing market. In England, it’s most prevalent in areas such as Bristol and its commuting region including North Somerset.

In these areas, it’s much more difficult for families and individuals with little money to compete with more affluent households for a suitable home. Where housing costs continue to rise, they may still face homelessness even if they increase their income.

Currently, the unaffordability of private renting is a major cause of homelessness. Over one million people currently claim Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and 35% of those people are in work.

LHA is designed to help people with little money to afford market rents. It’s a vital tool in preventing homelessness, but LHA has been frozen since 2016 while rents have increased.

But because of this freeze, there’s now a shortfall between rents and LHA rates in nine out of 10 areas in the country.

Shortfalls are large: in one in five areas, families in need of a 2-bedroom home face a shortfall of at least £100 pcm. One of the biggest triggers of applications for statutory homelessness assistance is the ending of a private (assured shorthold) tenancy, which can happen as the result of a no-fault eviction (or Section 21 notice).

At Somewhere to Go we see people who are not the standard perception of homelessness that people have. These are sometimes young couples who despite both working have fallen behind with rent and have other debt, if in this case a Section 21 is given, they are now in desperation. We see cases like this every week and refer them to NSC housing department or Key Steps if appropriate.

Example 1: Recently at Somewhere to Go, a mother and daughter came in who are sofa surfing as a result of family abuse and they came in for our daily provision of food and advice. Now the daughter has turned 18 we were asked if she could use the facilities at StG for food and showers.

This case shows that it is clear that if something is not done soon, we run the risk of a generational transfer of poverty from one to the next. We must bring a halt to generational poverty, deprivation and homelessness.

Example 2: A couple who used the soup kitchen at Friends Meeting House were renting last year and just about managing, she has a mild disability, and he does a manual labour type job. She was pregnant when I last saw them last year, there was a look of joy and worry on their faces.

Two weeks ago, they appeared at StG saying that they had rent arrears and had been given a section 21 for a month’s time and where could they get advice.

These are just two cases that I witnessed in two separate visits, but they are daily occurrences. Its good that people come to us as a trusted facility and that they know we will signpost them to our care partners, including North Somerset Councils housing team who are really helpful, despite having little housing stock or private housing providers. The “fend for yourself” attitude is good in theory but fails so many people who are disabled in ways that are not visible.

Many homeless individuals were living’ normal’ lives until a perfect storm of circumstances created the awful situation they find themselves in. Low self-worth and esteem could manifest itself leading to self-medication with alcohol and or recreational drugs. Before long addiction and eviction - family rejection and an early death.

47 is the average age of death of a homeless person.

Mental health, learning difficulties, family breakdown, relationship breakdown, all contribute to becoming homeless and can be pinpointed as the cause, but this is not right. It is the inequality and proportion of income that is needed for rent by the poorest in society that usually causes homelessness, many of the other causes listed are an indirect cause from that fact.

Picking up the threads of a chaotic situation early on and introducing the individual to supporting services while making sure they have a nutritious meal and warm clothing is what our day centre does 6 days a week. Our Night Assessment Centre is closed due to Covid 19 regulations meanwhile NSC are housing many in B&B accommodation. Somewhere to Go is also making plans for a more permanent first step solution for those in an emergency and those with greater needs.

Please donate via our website:

Barry Edwards

Trustee (Somewhere to Go)


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