Our campaign to save hostels
Over the past two years, proposed funding reforms for supported housing have created great uncertainty and put the future of homeless hostels at risk.
The government's latest proposal would see funding for homeless hostels taken out of the welfare system and made entirely reliant on local grant funding. In our experience this type of funding is less secure and easily eroded given the enormous pressure on local budgets. The government’s proposal puts existing homeless hostels at risk of closure and will make the development of new services difficult. As a result, vulnerable people in need of hostel beds may be unable to access support.
St Mungo's believes that people who need the support of a hostel after a crisis deserve the same protections as those with long term needs, and should have their housing costs met through the welfare system whenever possible. We outline how this could be achieved in our latest briefing to MPs and our response to the government's consultation.
At St Mungo’s we know the huge part that hostels play in recovery from homelessness, and we’ve been campaigning to secure their future since early 2017. Over 12,000 people signed the petition we submitted on World Homeless Day (10 October 2017) calling on ministers to save hostels, and hundreds of campaigners have written to their MPs about the issue. The government listened to some of our concerns and dropped potentially damaging proposals to cap housing benefit for supported housing tenants, but we believe that the new local grant funding proposal still fails to provide the long term security the sector needs.
In April this year St Mungo's clients and campaigners sent 2,000 postcards to the new Homelessness Minister, Heather Wheeler, asking her to step in and save homeless hostels from the proposed reforms. We know that government have heard our concerns and we're expecting further news this summer. To be kept up to date with news and ways to get involved, sign up to be a St Mungo’s campaigner:
Why save hostels?
In 2016, St Mungo's supported housing projects - or hostels - gave 4,120 people somewhere safe to stay, over half of whom have slept rough.
For many people who have been homeless, the route to recovery is less than straightforward. Poor physical and mental health can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, and without the right kind of support, it can be difficult to move on. Supported housing projects give people with complex or multiple physical and mental health needs an environment in which to recover and rebuild their lives.
Not only that, but accommodating single homeless people with support needs in specialist housing saves an estimated £6,703 per person annually by reducing costs to health, social care and criminal justice services.
With the right support at the right time, people can recover and rebuild their lives after being homeless.To find out more, download our report
Rob had been homeless on and off for 20 years when he arrived at St Mungo’s.
He had lost his live-in job when he was 17, and had to stay on the floor of a drug dealer’s flat. Fearing for his safety, he left, sleeping rough around London.
This was the start of a long battle with addiction and mental health problems that saw Rob bounce between services that were ill-equipped to help him, often spending periods sleeping rough.
Rob had been in an abstinence programme when he came to St Mungo’s – his tenancy had ended while he was in treatment, so he was at risk of being discharged with nowhere to stay.
He managed to get a little extra funding through his mental health trust, which gave him the time he needed to secure a place at Wood Lane hostel.
“The keywork was incredible – there was a plan put in action within two days of me moving in that was monitored. It was like ‘this is what you want to achieve, these are your goals’, so I kept being refreshed – ‘look, this is what you want to do’.
When I had nothing, everything I wanted I had to put onto paper, and they’d make sure that I would achieve that. I got my debts cleared, I got rehoused, I got my benefits sorted out, all these little things build those pages, and before you know, it turns into the book.”
Rob stayed at Wood Lane for 15 months, volunteering and attending college. Thanks to a discretionary housing payment from his local council, he was able to move on and into his own flat.
He is now a peer research worker with Groundswell, and sits on the London Homeless Health Board which aims to improve homeless people’s access to health services.
“I would say it was more than a foundation, they showed me how to be a person again.”
Mandy has had mental health problems throughout her life, and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when she was 27.
In 2012, Mandy lived in a one bedroom flat in Islington, London. After re-connecting with her foster family, she decided to give up her flat and move back home to be with her family.
After six months, her relationship with her foster family broke down and Mandy felt she had to leave. She had nowhere to live, so found herself sofa surfing for a few weeks. She approached her local council and was offered temporary accommodation, but was told she could not bring her dog, Skye. Mandy did not want to give up her Staffie, so ended up on the streets.
Mandy slept rough for two and a half weeks. She attempted suicide while she was living on the streets.
Eventually, a friend informed Mandy of a local church where she could get some food and shower. From there, she was put in touch with St Mungo’s and an outreach team approached her while she was sleeping on a bench and moved her into a St Mungo’s hostel.
“I have had some highs and lows in my life, but right now I am on a high. My confidence has grown and I am very proud of myself.”
Mandy now lives in a St Mungo’s project in Islington which is for people with low-medium support needs.
“I am at a turning point in my life, where my life is more positive. I can honestly say I am doing things I never thought I would do. If it wasn’t for St Mungo’s I would most likely be dead, they saved my life.”