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newly elected government

Posted25.06.24

Challenges the newly elected government face

When the newly elected government takes office, a comprehensive plan to tackle homelessness must be a top priority. Homelessness remains a critical issue. London Councils latest research shows that one in 50 Londoners are now homeless and living in temporary accommodation. Addressing it requires an understanding of the multifaceted challenges and the implementation of effective solutions.

Housing in London

In recent decades, new home construction has lagged behind rising demand in London, driven by population growth and social changes. This shortfall has led to soaring house prices, increased rental costs, and long council home waiting lists. The housing pressure contributes to homelessness, as people struggle to afford rent or find new properties when tenancies end. Limited housing options also hinder transitions out of homelessness.

More affordable properties need to be built, both for purchase and for rent. This includes a significant boost in social housing, where rents are pegged to local incomes. Social housing provides a clear pathway to independent living for those we support.

Despite the challenges faced by local authorities, developers, and construction firms, building more homes is economically beneficial. Homelessness costs an estimated £6.5 billion annually in temporary accommodation and support. Increased social housing would not only reduce these costs but also promote economic growth. Research from Shelter and the National Housing Federation, carried out by CEBR, shows that the combined socioeconomic value of building 90,000 social homes is estimated to be £51.2 billion.

Homelessness and mental health

Homelessness and mental health are closely linked. Our research shows that people impacted by homelessness are far more likely to have experienced previous trauma. This can lead to wider mental health issues and contribute to their homelessness. Even in the absence of past trauma, mental health problems arising from other causes can make it difficult to sustain independent accommodation, leading to homelessness.

Furthermore, the experience of homelessness itself severely impacts mental health. Recent research by Homeless Link found that 82% of people experiencing homelessness have a mental health diagnosis. The psychological effects can persist long after securing new housing, often leading to harmful coping mechanisms such as substance misuse, antisocial behaviour, and self-neglect.

Mental health support should be a key pillar of any response to homelessness. We must help people to work through past traumas, and we must provide the tools that they need to manage their emotional wellbeing.

Funding for mental health and wellbeing services should be incorporated into the homelessness tenders offered by local authorities. This aspect of homelessness support is crucial and should receive local authority funding to reflect that.

Homelessness and physical health

The health implications of homelessness are stark. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men and 42 for women. Homelessness creates health problems because of the harsh physical reality it entails, the coping mechanisms it can engender, and the way it can reduce healthcare access. It also exacerbates existing health conditions for the same reasons.

The most effective response is to ensure that people are not rough sleeping or experiencing any form of homelessness for longer than absolutely necessary. This requires coordinated outreach followed by tailored support.

It is important to enhance healthcare access within supported accommodation. This can be achieved by providing regular drop-in sessions and floating support from local health services directly within supported accommodation settings.

There should be more joined-up working between local support services, including health services, supported housing providers, outreach organisations, and substance misuse support services. This integrated approach would ensure that all aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing are addressed, providing a holistic support system.

Youth homelessness

An estimated 136,000 young people were homeless in 2023, and this number will rise further this year. Homelessness is dangerous for anybody, but it presents particular threats for young people. They face the risk of violence or exploitation, and the trauma of the experience can have lasting impacts on their mental health and wellbeing.

All of this means that tailored, long-term support is vital to help young people move out of homelessness. The government need to produce a clear strategy for ending youth homelessness. More funding must be made available for supported housing services like ours. Not only do young people need homes, but they also need the skills and knowledge to sustain those homes.

The newly elected government has a unique opportunity to implement comprehensive strategies that not only provide immediate support but also promote long-term solutions for people experiencing homelessness. By increasing the supply of affordable housing, incorporating mental health support into homelessness services, and enhancing healthcare access within supported accommodations, significant progress can be made in reducing homelessness.

Find out more about homelessness in London here.

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