Homelessness

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Rough Sleepers

  • Feb.28.2018: £28m rough sleeper fund still unspent. A ministerial task force on rough sleeping will meet for the first time next week three months after it was set up. A £28 million fund to provide accommodation for the homeless established at the same time has yet to distribute any money, officials admitted yesterday. Heather Wheeler, the minister responsible, said that the govt would have a new strategy in place by July. A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government defended the delay on the grounds that the priority had been to establish an independent panel including charity heads. That met for the first time on Feb.01. Francis Elliott, The Times.
  • Dec.12.2017: Robots are being used to deter homeless people from setting up camp in San Francisco. The robot uses lasers and sensors to monitor an area for criminal activity. Rather than intervene during a crime, it alerts human authorities. The robot's owner, the San Francisco SPCA, said it has seen fewer tents and car break-ins since it deployed the robot in the city's Mission neighborhood. The robot's presence is meant to deter homeless people from setting up camps along the sidewalks. The robot is part of a crime-fighting robot fleet manufactured and managed by startup Knightscope in Mountain View, California. The company's robots don't fight humans; they use equipment like lasers, cameras, a thermal sensor, and GPS to detect criminal activity and alert the authorities. Melia Robinson, Business Insider.

Articles

  • Aug.20.2020: Fears over 'vacuum' as top UK homelessness adviser steps down. Dame Louise Casey said she had stepped back from her role after being awarded a crossbench peerage; she now wanted to make her “contribution to public service” from the House of Lords. Sparked fears of a strategy vacuum as hundreds of thousands of tenants face possible eviction over rent arrears accrued during the coronavirus pandemic. Robert Booth, Patrick Butler, The Guardian.
  • Jan.14.2019: Families facing homelessness after tycoon issues eviction notices. Fergus Wilson is giving 90 households in Ashford, Kent two months to get out after he decided to sell his 700 property portfolio in the county estimated to be worth more than £200m. He is expected to issue hundreds more evictions in the coming months before retiring to “take life easy”. The govt is facing calls from renters and housing campaigners, backed by Labour, to scrap Section 21 evictions. Robert Booth, The Guardian.
  • Dec.31.2018: London boroughs join forces to alleviate homelessness crisis. Thousands of extra properties for struggling families pledged but campaigners warn of systemic issues. London boroughs will join forces to provide thousands of extra properties for families on the edge of homelessness, the UK communities secretary James Brokenshire has announced. The Capital Letters programme is expected to help more than 35,000 households within Greater London out of homelessness over the next three years. Press Association, The Guardian.
  • Aug.16.2018: Housing association tenants in Midlands to be given right to buy. The govt has announced a £200m pilot scheme to extend right to buy to Housing Association tenants, with a pledge to replace each property sold with a new affordable home. Under current rules, council housing tenants have the right to purchase at a discount rate the property they rent. On Thursday plans were unveiled to extend that right to those who let from a housing association across 70 local authorities in the Midlands. The announcement came days after the govt scrapped a plan from 2015 to force the sale of council homes in areas with high-value properties, following fierce opposition from councils. That proposal had been intended to fund the national rollout of the Right-to-Buy policy for housing associations tenants. It is now unclear how the nationwide scheme will be paid for. John Healey, shadow housing secretary, called it a “wasteful policy” that would now mean public money being spent selling off affordable homes at a discount when it should be used to build them instead. “Right to buy has decimated our council housing stock in this country,” he said. “By expanding this policy, the Tories are only going to make the housing crisis worse.” The housing secretary, James Brokenshire, said money from the discounted sales of housing association homes would be used to fund their replacements. The National Housing Federation, which has worked with the govt on the design of the scheme, said it was vital homes were replaced. Chief executive David Orr said: “It will be a success for everyone involved only if every home that is sold is replaced with a new affordable home. Experts sounded a note of caution... David Pipe, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “At a time when we desperately need more affordable housing, this money would be better spent on building new homes for rent and for shared ownership.” Jessica Elgot, The Guardian.
  • Aug.15.2018: As a social landlord, I want a proper plan to tackle homelessness. The govt has quietly backed down from plans to remove protection for short-term supported housing funding; has said it plans to end rough sleeping within a decade; and has announced a “new deal” for social housing tenants. More than 300,000 people are homeless in Britain. Despite this, the govt continues its drive to sell off what remains of social housing. All the evidence of the past 38 years shows that social housing is not being replaced at anything like the rate at which it is being sold. Even Lord Porter, Conservative chair of the Local Government Association and an advocate of Right to Buy, has said that, for the policy to work, councils need to be able to set the discount level locally, and retain 100% of the proceeds from sales so they can replace the housing that is being lost. This is not what the Housing, Communities and Local Government secretary, James Brokenshire, has announced. Instead, it will become easier for people to buy a part-share of their social home through the government’s shared-ownership scheme. The problem here is that once a tenant has a financial interest in their home – even as little as 1%, as the government is proposing – that home is effectively lost to the social rented sector. Social housing professionals are also raising an eyebrow at the suggestion that the regulator for social housing needs “sharper teeth” to deal with poor-quality social landlords, given that the govt abolished just such a body, the Tenant Services Authority, in 2010 as part of its much-vaunted bonfire of the quangos. We then moved to a system of light-touch regulation for housing associations which, tenants were assured, was all that was needed. It was certainly cheaper. The number of rough sleepers has increased by 169% since 2010, and if we want to reverse that increase we need to understand why it has happened. The answer, unsurprisingly, is draconian funding cuts by successive governments since the financial crash of 2008. And the £1.67bn for new social housing that was made available in June will build just 23,000 new social homes. Alan Fraser, The Guardian.
  • May.20.2018: Hundreds of homeless people fined and imprisoned in England and Wales. Despite updated Home Office guidance at the start of the year, which instructs councils not to target people for being homeless and sleeping rough, the Guardian has found over 50 local authorities with public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place. Homeless people are banned from town centres, routinely fined hundreds of pounds and sent to prison if caught repeatedly asking for money in some cases. Local authorities in England and Wales have issued hundreds of fixed-penalty notices and pursued criminal convictions for “begging”, “persistent and aggressive begging” and “loitering” since they were given strengthened powers to combat antisocial behaviour in 2014 by then home secretary, Theresa May. Patrick Greenfield, Sarah Marsh, The Guardian.
  • Apr.24.2018: UK government to spend £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness. A govt spokesperson said: “We are taking bold action and have committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027. We are investing £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness and earlier this month the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislation in this area in decades, came into force.” The law puts new legal obligations on councils in England to provide support for homeless people, regardless of their priority status. Thames Reach, who provides help for homeless people in London, said that the govt needed to record homeless deaths centrally. Nearly 80 people died this winter while sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation, according to new data. It brings the total number of deaths of homeless people to 318 since 2013, research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows. The Times.
  • Mar.17.2018: On Britain’s unruly streets, rich and poor are not so far apart. Once, the UK had beggars only in quantities small enough to make them exotic. Not any more. The latest government estimate suggests England had 4,751 rough sleepers last autumn, a rise of nearly 270% since 2010, with about a quarter of them in London. Not all rough sleepers are beggars; more important, in terms of public attitudes, not all beggars are rough sleepers. Figures from police forces in England and Wales show that of more than 1,000 people arrested for begging in 2014, less than a fifth were legally defined as homeless. A year earlier the Daily Mail discovered a 37-year-old man in west London who allegedly earned £50,000 a year from begging, and lived rent-free in a £300,000 flat. But the world of begging has always been riddled with impostors, proven as well as rumoured. The advice of almost every charity is never to give to beggars; in the words of the Big Issue’s founder, John Bird, “It locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost.” Most beggars – as many as 80% – are doing so to fund a drug habit. Better instead to give money to charities, say the charities, so that they can fund drop-in centres and other projects that have a chance of changing the beggar’s life. (See Comments) Ian Jack, The Guardian.
  • Jan.27.2018: A Dickensian law is being used by councils to prosecute rough sleepers. Here's how to stop it. The politicians resurrecting a Dickensian law to make homeless people into criminals. Why the 1824 Vagrancy Act is being used by councils to prosecute rough sleepers, and how to stop it. The New Stateman, Thomas Zagoria
  • Jan.25.2018: Rough sleeper numbers in England rise for seventh year running. An estimated 4,751 people bedded down outside overnight in 2017, up 15% on 2016. Balbir Chatrik, director of policy at the Centrepoint charity. The govt has pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eradicate it completely by 2027. It is investing £28m in trials of a Finnish-style "housing first" approach to support rough sleepers with complex needs in Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands, and it is introducing a homelessness reduction bill in April. Howard Sinclair, chief executive of the homeless charity St Mungo's. Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis. Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter. The govt is currently reviewing the way it collects homelessness statistics after a critical report two years ago by the UK statistics authority, which said its rough sleeper figures were untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation. The Guardian, Patrick Butler
  • Jan.25.2018: Number of homeless people is now highest it has been since records began. Local authorities estimated there were around 4,751 rough sleepers on a single night in autumn 2017, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. Metro, Richard Hartley-Parkinson
  • Jan.23.2018: 33,000 people have been prosecuted for begging and activities associated with rough sleeping under an archaic 1824 Vagrancy Act over the last 10 years. @ToryFibs >> Rough Sleepers and Anti-Social Behaviour (England) (at bottom of page)
  • 2018.01.11: Windsor council leader faces effort to oust him over policy on homeless. Conservatives will debate future of Simon Dudley, who wants police to act against rough sleepers before the royal wedding. Dudley is facing an attempt to force him out of his job by fellow Conservatives amid controversy over his call for rough sleepers to be cleared from the streets of the town before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. The move comes as more than 218,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for Simon Dudley to withdraw his demand that police use legal powers against rough sleepers and beggars before the royal wedding on 19 May. “Instead the council + local authorities should offer a suitable long-term solution for these people, including safe + secure accommodation + health advice and support,” says the petition. Dudley wrote to Thames Valley police this month to call for action against “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy in Windsor”, saying residents and tourists were being exploited. He wanted police action before the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, when tens of thousands of wellwishers and tourists are expected to descend on the Queen’s weekend home, Windsor Castle. The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood
  • 2018.01.09: Windsor homeless report delayed. This week the Royal Borough of Windsor's lead member Cllr Phill Bicknell said more work on it was needed because of the complexity of the situation. He said: "...we have to separate two issues. Rough sleeping + homelessness in Windsor are two separate entities. Cllr Bicknell is also deputy leader of the Royal Borough - the second most powerful councillor after leader Simon Dudley, whose controversial letter to police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld calling for stronger action against street beggars has caused a furore in the last few days. Windsor Observer, Francis Batt
  • 2018.01.08: Windsor council leader sparks backlash with rough sleeper remarks. Opposition group says Simon Dudley brought borough into disrepute with call for police to clear streets before royal wedding. The opposition group on the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) has formally requested for a no confidence motion to be tabled. His letter followed a series of tweets posted while on a ski holiday in the US referring to “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy in Windsor” and saying “residents have had enough of this exploitation of residents and 6 million tourists pa”. The opposition group on the council numbers only 6 out of a total of 57 councillors, meaning the motion stands little chance of being passed. “But this debate needs to happen,” said Lynne Jones, who suggested Dudley’s leadership was autocratic and overly reliant on Twitter as a means of communication. She poke briefly to Dudley on Monday morning, but there had been no sign of contrition. “That’s not his style.” The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood
  • 2018.01.04: Theresa May opposes Windsor council leader over homeless people. Prime minister disagrees with Simon Dudley, who called for police to act against rough sleepers before royal wedding. The PM, who is MP for Maidenhead, said she disagreed with comments made by Simon Dudley on Twitter and in a letter to the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner. The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood
  • 2018.01.03: Windsor council leader calls for removal of homeless before royal wedding. Simon Dudley, a Conservative, is demanding police use legal powers to clear the area of homeless people by May.19. The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood

2017

  • 2017.12.25: Tens of thousands of young people affected by homelessness, data shows. Figures obtained by LibDems from 234 councils show almost 45,000 people aged 18-24 have come forward in past year for help with homelessness, Guardian, Anushka Asthana

2016

  • 2016.03.14: Homelessness and UK housing policies, The Guardian, Letters

2015

  • Oct.07.2015: 4 charts that show how David Cameron's housing policy helps the rich at the expense of the poor. The Independent, Jon Stone
  • Feb.04.2015: Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets (USA). a May Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person on "the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues."... Vox, Matthew Yglesias