It is estimated that some 300,000 people in England are homeless. The number has tripled since the Conservative government’s tough austerity policy began. But a new law is aiming to prevent the problem before it arises.
“Sticky situation, and I got kicked out. So, I came here and started the hostel life,” says Brogan. She is sitting on a fluffy sofa. The sun is shining through the typical English bay windows into the lounge of the hostel for homeless young people. The organization that runs it, Roundabout, offers a home to 27 of them in Sheffield.
The charity Shelter estimates that there are 300,000 homeless people in England. Since the Conservative government’s tough austerity policy began in 2010, the number has risen sharply. Now the government is also focusing on the problem.
The government is counting on more prevention
In mid-August, James Brokenshire, Minister of Municipalities and Housing, presented a legislative initiative. The goal is that by 2027, no one should have to sleep on the street.
Since April, municipalities have been required to offer assistance the day a lease is terminated. Hospitals, prisons and job centers are obliged to refer people directly to social services if there is a risk of them becoming homeless.
With the “Homelessness Reduction Act,” the government is aiming to keep people housed by means of timely intervention.
Homelessness has risen sharply
The Conservatives have been under pressure on this issue for some time. Homelessness is no longer limited to London with its chronically inflated property market. Last year, Labour politician Andy Burnham won the election as mayor of Greater Manchester with the promise to take up the fight against homelessness.
Since then, he has, among other things, donated 15 percent of his salary for this purpose. Across England, 60 percent more people are living in emergency shelters than in 2011, and the number of people sleeping on the streets has more than doubled.
“MPs went home to their constituencies and found that people across the country were talking about homelessness. So, it’s one of these problems that people are talking about everywhere, both in the cities and towns, but also in the shires and the small towns,” says Jon Dean, who is researching the subject at Sheffield University.
Austerity policy has exacerbated the problem
Dean sees the reasons behind the current situation primarily in the cuts to social welfare and housing benefits. “So, the very hard sanctions that were brought in as part of austerity in order to get the welfare budget down to reduce the deficit did have a huge impact on rising levels of homelessness.”
Anyone who misses an appointment at the social security office or job center loses part of his or her social assistance. In addition, charities complain that in many regions of England, rents have risen more sharply than state housing subsidies.
Standard rental contracts in England expire after one year. This has become the main reason why many people end up homeless. Since 2011, the number of people losing their homes has tripled.