Recently, we joined forces with 31 other homeless charities in writing to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, calling on him to take urgent steps to end rough sleeping.
A year ago, Mr Sunak said that he was ‘committed to ending rough sleeping once and for all by 2024’. Yet, since then, it’s obvious that more people are ending up in a rough sleeping situation, rather than less.
The Annual Rough Sleepers Snapshot, conducted in late 2022, showed that rough sleeping rose by 26 per cent between 2021 and 2022, the biggest annual rise since 2015. Meanwhile, in London, figures show that there has been a rise in rough sleeping in every quarter between 2022-2023 compared with the year before.
So, what does that mean and why should we care? Many organisations that work with those facing homelessness haven’t seen an inflationary rise in their income for years. That means that, year-on-year, they are absorbing these rises, and that, put simply is unsustainable. It makes it harder and harder to provide the trauma-informed care that we know helps people move on from homelessness.
That means there is a lot of jeopardy for those who find themselves at a particularly vulnerable point in life. At Oasis Community Housing, cost-of-living pressures have added tens of thousands of pounds to our costs. That places some of our services at risk, services at which people facing homelessness depend on.
This has felt like a year of strikes, as doctors, nurses, ambulance workers, rail workers, security staff at Heathrow, teachers, passport office staff, civil servants and university staff have all raised their voices about cost-of-living pressures.
Homelessness organisations aren’t immune from the cost-of-living pressures either and so our message to Rishi Sunak is clear. We are calling on him to live up to his commitment to end rough sleeping, and in doing so, to offer a lifeline to those who are most at need in our society. To do so, he will need to provide Local Authorities and other commissioners of homelessness services with additional funding so that they can overcome inflationary pressures. This is both the moral and the cost-effective choice when it comes to addressing homelessness.
Making the necessary changes to help those facing homelessness is an act of the will, a political choice. Now, we need to see the commitment from the government to make this happen.
David Smith, CEO Oasis Community Housing