We need a co-ordinated approach to tackling homelessness

The boss of a local homelessness charity, George Dunstall, on how it plans to tackle rough sleeping during the cost-of-living crisis

There has been a 29% rise in rough sleeping across London over the last decade
There has been a 29% rise in rough sleeping across London over the last decade

Homelessness is a complex issue. In June this year the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) data showed a big drop, year on year, in the number of people seen sleeping on the streets of London – a 24% fall from 11,018 to 8,329.

This is no small achievement and provided evidence that with political will and targeted funding, central government and local authorities in partnership with the voluntary sector can tackle this issue.

The longer view is important, however, and is less positive. According to Crisis analysis of the same data, compared with 2012/13 there has been in increase of 29% from a figure of 6,437. Should we consider such an increase in rough sleeping over a decade as a triumphant success in tackling the issue? Perhaps not.

For over ten years, All People All Places (APAP) has been working across Enfield and Haringey to provide emergency accommodation to those people in our communities who are left with no other option but to sleep on the streets. Responding to the crisis as it presents is a necessary part of this work, but stopping people from reaching that crisis in the first place is where the real benefit is.

Stopping people from experiencing the crushing and personally devastating impact of rough sleeping reduces the impact on individuals and on the wide range of costly statutory and voluntary services which then must pick up the pieces.

That’s why, at the start of 2022, we launched a day centre service in Fore Street, Edmonton. Our centre provides immediate respite to those sleeping rough, supports people through and beyond the housing crisis, and prevents people from becoming homeless in the first place through active casework and partnership with key agencies across Enfield and Haringey.

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In eight months, our small service has had more than 1,000 visits, 170 individual clients and supported 110 people to address the underlying causes of their housing crisis. While around a third of visitors have had experience of or are currently sleeping rough when they come to us, two thirds are ‘vulnerably housed’. Such people are either facing an ever-present threat of eviction, rent increases, or simply endure monthly outgoings that outstrip their monthly income to such a degree that homelessness is an imminent reality. They are a job loss, an illness or a pay cheque away from losing their accommodation.

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With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to spiral, we are already seeing more clients week-by-week, with evermore more complex situations of debt, immigration and mental health. As the only day centre provision within Enfield, we are uniquely placed to be an anchor service in the borough.

We offer a gateway to support for many people who do not know how to navigate the systems necessary to resolve their crisis; we offer a space where they will be warmly welcomed and listened to, one that can not only meet their immediate needs, but also provide advocacy to navigate those complex local and national systems with them.

We know we cannot do this alone and that is why we partner with key agencies and departments across the local government, health and voluntary sectors to access everything from immigration and legal services, to drug and alcohol treatment, to street outreach and housing support. We have an exciting three-year strategy to further develop our day centre provision and launch a static shelter, working in partnership with Enfield Council to plug the gaps that they cannot – either through funding constraints or legal limitations.

In the meantime, we continue to provide that gateway, that space for all visitors, whatever their housing situation, to engage on their terms; wrapping the support of services around them in a space that they feel is theirs.

Find out more about All People All Places:
[email protected]

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