There is less than a year to go until the next general election. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to say to both the current and any future government: get real about homelessness.  

Currently, homelessness charities like Oasis Community Housing are effectively being forced to subsidise local governments who are shockingly under-funded and under resourced. According to Homeless Link, between 2010 and 2018 the amount of money that local authorities received for work with the homeless, dropped by a massive £1 billion.  

In that same period, most homelessness services – including ours – have not received inflationary increases for many parts of their work. So we’re being squeezed in every direction: the total funding available is being cut, contracts aren’t keeping up with inflation, and the need is growing. We’re effectively being asked to do the same amount (or more) for less money.  

I have every sympathy for local councils’ who are in impossible positions, they have been forced to rely on homelessness charities to stand in the gap and provide the services that should be the responsibility of government, whether it be local or national, this can’t continue. 

Caring for those experiencing and facing homelessness is not a nice-to-have extra in society: it is a vital building block of welfare. How we do this says a lot about who we are as a nation, and currently, we should be ashamed. 

Charities such as Oasis Community Housing are often treated as if we are commercial operations with considerable surpluses, and room to manoeuvre when it comes to subsiding homeless provision. We aren’t and we don’t, and that’s why we need the government to increase their funding to tackle homelessness. 

Around the country, homelessness charities are at a tipping point. They can no longer underwrite provision of care for the most vulnerable in society. And, you could argue, they should not be required to do so. Charities are essential for bringing hope to the most vulnerable people in society, seeing the worth in the people they support and working with them to rebuild their confidence. 

Therefore, my message to whoever is in government is this: take homelessness seriously. Provide for it fully through adequately supporting local authorities. Do not expect charities to do this job on our own. Homelessness charities are already being forced to cut back their work, and the cost of this – let alone the moral jeopardy – will come back out of the national purse as more and more people fall through the net into homelessness and personal crisis.  

We know that it’s far more cost-effective to help people find housing, to help them begin to tackle their trauma, than to see them become homeless. 

I recently signed a letter by Homeless Link, along with 36 other homelessness organisations, to Jeremy Hunt expressing the need to release more funding in the spring budget to help homelessness services stay afloat. The letter outlined that out of 120 homeless link providers 36% have already reduced their services to meet financial pressures, while 41% risk service closures imminently. 

Charities like Oasis Community Housing are the canary in the coal mine. Government needs to wake up and pay attention to them.  

David Smith, CEO Oasis Community Housing