Let’s stop anyone from facing a first night sleeping rough

Cllr Rebecca Rennison on why Government backing for Hackney's homelessness work is so important.

Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Mayoral Advisor for Advice Services and Preventing Homelessness
At this time of year, as the temperature drops, we are reminded more of the challenge of homelessness and rough sleeping that is on the rise across our city.

That’s why I was delighted that last month the Prime Minister recognised the work we’ve been doing in Hackney to prevent anyone having to spend a night on the streets, with backing of more than £400,000 to support and expand a pilot project that has had great results.

Along with other councils, we’ve always focussed our resources on finding vulnerable rough sleepers and working with charities to get them the housing, health and employment help they need to get back on their feet.

Our No First Night Out project, with Tower Hamlets Council and the City of London Corporation, goes one step further – providing that vital support to those most at risk of homelessness before they’re forced onto the streets. Specialist officers work across public sector teams – as well as religious organisations, medical, legal and employment services – to identify those at risk of a first night sleeping rough, and give them rapid, intensive support to stop it happening.

Research shows that there are three main tipping points that lead to someone sleeping rough. They may have been staying at a friend’s who can’t help them any longer, they may have had to leave the family or a partner’s home, or they may have lost their tenancy due to it not being renewed, rent arrears or a rent increase. 

No First Night Out has been helping these people – people like Raul. Raul, in his 50s, had been sofa-surfing after being evicted from a house because his landlord wanted to use the property. But with no fixed address, he struggled to maintain benefit forms and appointments and was ‘sanctioned’ – leaving him short of money and with nowhere to live.

Our team stepped in, and with Crisis, helped find Raul a rented property he could afford where his children could visit him and he is preparing to start work again.

The money announced last month will allow us to massively expand this work to stop hundreds more people across our three boroughs being forced onto the streets – something we know leads to the breakdown of their social links, stops them finding work and can have drastic consequences for their health.

It also makes sense for the taxpayer – this investment will save the public purse nearly £3million through fewer visits to hospitals, police stations and intensive support services.

While this funding from ministers is welcome, the only solution to London’s housing crisis is to build thousands of new homes. We’re doing our bit – our regeneration programmes will provide nearly 9,000 homes for social rent, shared ownership and private sale over the next ten years.

But Government welfare and housing reforms are leaving more people with unaffordable housing costs and at risk of homelessness, while zero funding is provided for us to build the social housing we need. The extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants will be paid for by selling off Council homes – with up to 700 set to go in Hackney.

If the Prime Minister is serious about ending homelessness, she must cut the red tape that stops us from building the homes we need and stop the damaging reforms that are shackling the supply of new housing in London.

If you are worried about someone sleeping rough, tell Street Link so we can give them the support they need.
Cllr Rebecca Rennison, Mayoral Advisor for Advice Services and Preventing Homelessness