Emma Haddad is the chief of St Mungo’s, which is a homeless charity and joins me now. Emma, good to talk to you today. The government had this aim of ending rough sleeping by 2024. Do you think that was just too ambitious?
Good afternoon. Well, whether it’s ambitious or not, it’s simply not going to happen, unfortunately. That’s the conclusion of the report of the Kerslake Advisory Board that’s been published today, that that commission is made up of experts across the homelessness and the housing and the health sectors. And it’s really worth a read and listening to the voices. And it’s a collection of really what we’re seeing across the sector and what’s causing it.
And that is a massive, massive increase in homelessness and people in temporary accommodation and people sleeping rough. And that is due to a huge shortage in accommodation and housing, but a shortage most noticeably in affordable housing, coupled with the cost of living crisis that is pushing more and more people, sadly, onto the streets.
That have made it worse. What has helped, what has worked in the last few months and years? Because there will be success stories there. What are the what are the channels that work?
Well, it’s worth remembering that the Kerslake commission was established in response to the pandemic. The everyone in campaign and what we saw during the pandemic was a real shared purpose of getting everybody in to safe, warm accommodation where they could be supported, where their support could be tailored, where they had dedicated health support. And that was a universal offer to everybody, no matter their status, no matter who they were, no matter what, where they come from and what what pushed them into homelessness or onto the streets.
And sadly, that that dedicated funding and shared purpose has come to an end. There is no universal offer anymore, and it’s harder and harder to get people off the streets, particularly those with unclear or limited insight to be in the UK. And more and more people are coming onto the streets and when we get them off, it’s more is harder to to move people on because people are getting stuck in hostels or temporary accommodation without the availability of supported or social housing that would meet their needs and enable them to stay off the streets.
So if you break it down into into the different stages of homelessness, what where do you think responsibility lies in preventing homelessness in the first place?
Well, this is the message, really, of the Kerslake commission report published today to the current government and to any incoming administration of the next general election. They are pouring money in. There is money going into the sector, but it’s simply not enough. And B, it’s responding to people who are already at risk of or actually finding themselves in homelessness or even rough sleeping.
And that is responding to the crisis. We are all responding to people who have already fallen out of the system or fallen into such complex needs that it is much more of a humanitarian disaster almost and certainly not cost efficient to be looking after people once they’ve reached that point. So what the report is saying is you’ve got to completely re-engineer the the direction of the support and the funding that goes with it, push it upstream and push it into prevention so that people are supported before they reach that crisis point, before they fall off the brink and into homelessness.
And that means more support in mental health services and drug and alcohol addiction, helping people who are at risk of losing their tenancy, their home before it happens to them, helping people at risk of experiencing domestic violence. All of those kind of things would absolutely help us catch people before they fall.
The report also calls for better cross-sector support. Why is that not happening? Because all the different organizations talking to each other is something that, you know, that doesn’t cost money communication.
No. And actually, the partnership working in the cross-sector working is very, very good. And everybody is is working together with that shared aim of, you know, ending ending homelessness and ending rough sleeping for good. We are calling for much more joined up working across government. There are so many different ministries, different departments who have a stake in homelessness, whether it’s stopping, you know, people leaving prison from having nowhere to go on a Friday evening, which hopefully the new legislation will will reduce, or whether it’s just to start discharging people from hospital onto the streets, whether it’s care leavers who find themselves on the streets, whether it’s women who need that support, fleeing fleeing domestic violence or domestic abuse, that that all of that needs a cross-departmental, cross-governmental response. And it’s not just the responsibility of one single department.