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We talk to Shelter Birmingham, to find out more about the issue of homelessness

Recent government reports suggest that in the autumn of 2017, rough sleeping had increased by 15% since the previous year, whilst a worrying 30,000 single-parent families were made homeless last year alone.

Shelter is just one of many charities tackling homelessness, and the MCF’s recent grant of £60,000 has funded a Specialist Advice Worker for the Shelter Birmingham Advice Service. But what can cause someone to become homeless? What barriers are there to overcoming homelessness? We chatted with Vicky Hines, Hub Manager at Shelter Birmingham, to find out more.

How does Shelter define ‘homelessness’?

If you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets, then you are homeless, but you can also be homeless even if you have a roof over your head. It could be that you don’t have the right to be where you are staying, or you live somewhere unsuitable for reasons such as overcrowding or threats of violence. The vast majority of homeless people are actually families or single people who are not sleeping rough, but instead are living in temporary, poor quality accommodation that’s harming their health and wellbeing.

How many people are homeless in Britain?

Homelessness is on the rise and shockingly there are more than 300,000 people in Britain homeless today; that’s one in every 208 people. To make matters worse, many are simply unaccounted for so the true figure of homelessness is likely to be even higher.

What may cause someone to become homeless?

Eviction from private tenancy is the number one cause of homelessness and thousands of renters live in constant fear that just one slip up – like a cut in working hours or sudden rent rise – could leave them without a roof over their heads. Sadly, many people view homelessness as the result of personal failings, but the facts show it is caused by a complex interplay between someone’s particular circumstances, such as job loss or physical and mental health problems, and wider social and economic factors beyond their control, such as unaffordable housing.

What day-to-day risks do homeless people face?

Being homeless is a traumatic experience that can really hurt someone’s physical and emotional wellbeing. At Shelter, we help homeless families every day who are suffering from high levels of stress because of the lack of control they have over their situation. Combine this with high levels of poverty and poor living conditions and you can see why it’s such a daily struggle. Homelessness can also feel very isolating, especially when temporary accommodation is far away from their local community, support networks and friends. Children in particular can find the whole experience hugely traumatic, and we’ve seen how seriously this can impact on their education and harm their overall life chances.

What barriers do people face to getting out of homelessness?

Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating. The current national housing crisis has led to a lack of affordable housing and every year more and more people are being priced out of both home ownership and rental accommodation. Budget cuts and pressures on spending have meant that councils are facing greater challenges in providing housing services, so people aren’t always getting the support they might expect. People can also be trapped in difficult situations, such as spiralling debts or substance abuse, which can be hard to overcome without the right support.

What services can Shelter provide for those facing homelessness?

As a first port of call, we offer expert advice on our website with the option to talk to an adviser online or call our helpline for urgent queries. Our face-toface services across the UK also give people personalised help, including Shelter solicitors who provide free legal advice and attend court to help people faced with the threat of eviction. We have specialist local hubs across the country, including Shelter Birmingham where, thanks to the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we can now fund an expert Shelter advice worker to reach hundreds of people in the local community who are in danger of homelessness or threatened with repossession.”

How can individuals help people who are homeless or facing homelessness?

If you notice someone living rough on the streets, you can use the StreetLink website to make local support services aware that a person needs help. Practical help is often provided by day centres for homeless people, food banks and soup runs, churches and charities, many of whom are looking for volunteers.

What can you do if you are facing homelessness?

The most vital thing is to get expert advice as soon as you can. Homelessness is a complex issue and different for everyone, which is why you need expert help straight away.

Ronnie’s story

Ronnie - Out of the woods

Homelessness can affect people from all walks of life, including the Masonic community.

Ronnie, a Freemason, had a successful career in recruitment until a battle with addiction turned his life upside down.

“My life was in turmoil, you couldn’t make it up – everything came tumbling down. I ended up homeless and living in a tent in a wood for eight months. I was battered and bruised, ostracised and alienated.”

Watch Ronnie’s Story >>





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