Kevin, a former client of St Mungo’s, has been championing our Home for Good campaign and last week handed in an open letter to the Government signed by over 21,300 people. He explains what changes are needed to help people who have slept rough have a home for good.
Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010. That’s a shocking fact. Why? Years of cuts to essential support services, spiralling housing costs and increasing insecurity for private renters.
Something needs to give. That’s why I am championing St Mungo’s Home for Good campaign. Last week, I handed in my letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, with the signatures of over 21,300 campaigners who agree with me that the Government should be doing more to end rough sleeping permanently.
I’m a former client of St Mungo’s
Following the death of my mum when I was 12, I struggled with mental health and substance use. For years I didn’t have a stable home and stayed with partners or friends. I burnt a lot of bridges and became street homeless. It was a very dark time of my life.
I was so far away from my authentic ‘me’ that I couldn’t see a way out. But I had a really good St Mungo’s caseworker who saw something in me. He told me that I didn’t have to live this way anymore. That’s when I started to find a bit of self-love, and while I still had some trouble along the way, it was the first time I could see an alternative.
With the help of St Mungo’s and others, I was supported into a private rented flat, but what people do not realise is that just housing people does not solve the problem of homelessness.
Just having a roof over your head isn’t enough
Moving into your own place can be the hardest and scariest time for anyone. A lot of people need ongoing support; I needed ongoing support. Without the right help, things quickly spiralled out of control and I wound up back on the streets. It wasn’t until I got a place in social housing that things stabilised for me.
Now I work with people experiencing homelessness every day, and I see the same issues I faced come up again and again. It’s hard being on this side of the fence, seeing people struggle and knowing that the money isn’t there for the help they need. So what needs to change?
We need more social housing
To start with, more housing must be made available to people with a history of sleeping rough, and these homes need to be affordable and for the long term. That’s why I’m asking the Government to build more social housing, with some of these new homes reserved for people who have slept rough. And why I’m asking for improvements to the private rented sector to make tenancies more stable and limit rent increases so that fewer people face eviction in the first place.
We need more funding for support services
There also needs to be guaranteed long-term funding for the support services people need to end their homelessness for good.
Reintegration is the most important part of anybody’s journey out of homelessness, be it through social housing or private landlords. But reintegration requires ongoing support and trust in your caseworker. If you don’t have somebody there for you who’s consistent, regular and has your trust, is there any wonder that a large percentage of people are ending back on the street?
But funding for support services has declined over recent years. Floating support services (support provided in someone’s home to help them manage their tenancy and to live independently) for example have been cut by more than 40% in London alone.
It’s getting dangerous on the streets
If I could say one thing to the Housing Secretary, it would be ‘open your eyes, it’s getting dangerous out there for a lot of people’. In 2017 almost 600 people died while living on the streets or in emergency accommodation. This has to stop.
We came so close to ending rough sleeping ten years ago. The Government needs to act now to make sure that everyone can find, and keep, a home for good.
Read more about the Home for Good campaign here.