There isn’t a guidebook to escaping homelessness. Often, people are trapped in the situation and they have very little chance of being able to escape homelessness.
There are no quick fixes. This is because homelessness is a complex issue, and it’s not just about housing, it’s not just about getting jobs, or only about addiction or solely about anything.
Everyone’s situation is different and there are normally many factors such as mental health that mean someone, through no fault of their own, is stuck in homelessness.
As stated in the previous paragraph, everyone is different and everyone’s situation is different. The combination of different factors affecting a person means that almost every situation is unique.
For example, factors that can affect a person’s ability to move on significantly include: their physical and mental health, their skills, past traumas, addiction issues, citizenship, family situation, where geographically they are, and cultural background, the list is almost endless.
Homelessness is complicated, but that’s not to say it can’t be tackled more effectively with the right policies in place. There are some policies that have significant evidence showing they work.
Greater Change believes, that given the suffering homelessness causes and the ability of our nation to better help people who are homeless, it is our moral duty to do so. We’ve written more about the statistics around homelessness in the UK, but have also included a brief overview here.
Put simply, this strategy involves giving homes to homeless people before providing the support they need for their mental health and addiction issues so that they are able to stay in their own homes rather than needing a hostel or prison cell.
This is being used in The UK, Greater Change believes it should be scaled up further. There is a significant body of evidence that this strategy works.
Finland has reported a fall in the absolute numbers of long-term homeless people following the adoption of a national strategy centred on using Housing First to end long-term homelessness.
In 2008, 2,931 people were long-term homeless in the ten biggest cities. This number had dropped to 2,192 in late 2013, a reduction of 25%. In 2013, the Housing First Europe project reported that 97% of the high-need homeless people using the Discus Housing First service in Amsterdam were still in their housing after 12 months in the service.
During the pandemic, it was proven that rough sleeping can be dramatically reduced by offering people a place to stay, this was referred to as the ‘everyone in’ programme.
Giving people accommodation for a significant period of time allowed people to get some stability and think about their future. This led to many former rough sleepers being able to secure long term accommodation even after the government programme ended.
Greater Change believes that rapidly offering people suitable accommodation can give people the stability they need to approach other problems they face.
Greater Change also believes in a prevention strategy, in addition to helping people who are already homeless. This essentially involves identifying when people are about to become homeless and preventing them from becoming homeless before it happens.
There is a significant body of evidence that this works. It is also common sense that prevention would work. Homelessness is very damaging to people’s health and almost always exacerbates the problems that lead to someone becoming homeless.
It is much easier to prevent homelessness, before these problems have been exacerbated than to support someone once they have become homeless.
Greater Change focuses on a particular group - those that need a financial boost to escape homelessness. We believe everyone deserves help. However, we focus on this particular group because we believe that is where our resources can be most helpful.
We believe that if we are able to help this group effectively, this will free capacity in other services, to help people in more difficult situations more effectively. All the people we support also receive guidance and support to get back on their feet from a partner charity.
Finally here is a real-world situation, where someone was able to escape homelessness.
22-year-old Eddy was born in Nigeria and came to the UK as an infant. Eddy was dedicated to his studies; however, during his college years, he was severely injured in a bike accident and was hospitalized for months.
The serious damage to his ankle resulted in him wearing a foot brace and using crutches for half a year. This accident forced Eddy to drop out of college but also caused several life-altering events that put him at risk of homelessness.
His mother became concerned for his well being because his mobility was limited by his injuries and his affiliation with a negative peer group, which caused his involvement in a stabbing incident. Eddy’s life was at risk and his mother asked him to leave the family’s home.
Unfortunately, Eddy did not have a place to stay and ended up sleeping rough for months. Without the support from New Horizon Youth Centre, Eddy would not have known how to access the support he needed.
His local authority placed him in temporary accommodation outside of his borough, whilst they assessed his homelessness application; however, nearly a year later Eddy has remained secluded in the same temporary accommodation. The donations raised for his campaign helped him to purchase general household items but he says the most important purchase was a TV.
Eddy’s support worker said that “he felt quite isolated” because of his ongoing physical health issues and lack of mobility; however, your donations have helped him to manage and improve his mental health and wellbeing.
The support has, in his own words: “helped me settle in… to sleep well and warmly… cook food I like … occupy my mind and time, ” is invaluable and greatly appreciated.