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“Firm commitments” won’t end homelessness

Written by Andrew Redfern, Framework CEO

Senior Leadership Team

There’s a chorus of voices demanding action to turn the rising tide of homelessness. It is growing in number and swelling in volume.

Next Tuesday (5 March) I’ll be in Westminster to take part in Homeless Link’s ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ lobby of Parliament. Framework has invited more than thirty MPs representing the constituencies where we work, to join us there – or to meet at another time in the day. So far only two have responded in the affirmative: thank you Olivia Blake and Lilian Greenwood. A third, who happens to be a Minister of State, has written to confirm that “there is a firm commitment across the Government to end rough sleeping once and for all”.

Tomorrow the Government will publish its national street count figures for Autumn 2023. These will update us on the precise extent to which rough sleeping has increased since the commitment was made to end it by 2024. The lobby on 5 March is an opportunity to hear of any plans that ministers may have to reverse the upward trend and at least get the numbers moving in the right direction, before the Government’s target date for rough sleeping to disappear.

On the following day (6 March) the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Spring Budget. On behalf of Framework, with the leaders of many similar organisations nationwide, I have added my name to a letter sent to Mr Hunt. With many homelessness and supported housing services now closed due to financial pressures, it calls for urgent investment to protect those that remain. It’s no accident that the diminution of services has coincided with the current crisis – every lost bedspace is another person with nowhere to go.

For over a decade now Framework has exercised its ingenuity to do more for less, attempting to maintain support for a growing number of homeless people whose needs are ever more complex. But the gap between what it costs to deliver services safely and the resources we have to deliver them, is growing. Like similar organisations whose services have already closed because they couldn’t bridge the gaps, we’ve run out of avenues to explore. Some hard choices are inevitable because there is simply nowhere else to go. And very sadly, the same is true for thousands of people who will sleep rough tonight.

A ‘firm commitment’ won’t be enough to end this situation. The cessation of rough sleeping requires a re-construction of the systemic responses to its causes that once existed – centred around the Supporting People programme, which drove the numbers close to zero in 2010. This recent history tells us that rough sleeping is not a ‘lifestyle choice’. It also shows us what needs to be done, what it costs….and how much could be saved for what was, by any standards, a modest investment.

We’re seeing the devastating impact the housing and cost-of-living crises are having in our communities.

How you can help

Please join me in urging your Member of Parliament to come to the lobby of Parliament next Tuesday. If the commitment to end rough sleeping really is a firm one, there is much to discuss and even more to do.