BBC online reported last week that England’s rough sleeping population is rising and on December 30th news of Birmingham council’s successful bid for a Rough Sleeping Grant was highlighted on this site. Research by the charity Shelter suggests the figure of 9,560 homeless people in Birmingham as more rough sleepers are seen in the city and two months ago the body of a young man was found in a loading area behind The Victoria pub, in John Bright Street.
The ‘i’ newspaper reports that plans under consideration by Birmingham Council could see £5.2m cut from the “supporting people” budget in 2017/18 and £4.8m the following year – affecting rough sleepers, the disabled, mental health patients, ex-offenders and victims of domestic violence.
Recently a reader drew attention to the Guardian report about London squatters who entered a building on 23 January and accommodated about 25 homeless people, many of whom had been sleeping rough around Victoria Station. After one said that it is criminal that there are so many homeless people and so many empty buildings there was a reference to new government figures which state that more than 200,000 homes have been empty for more than six months – and evictions continue to rise.
Following the link given for information on the figures for Birmingham updates this month, we found that the total number of currently empty homes in the city is over 400,000:
- over 60,000 are local authority owned,
- over 40,000 are owned by private registered providers (housing associations and social landlords)
- and over 300,000 are privately owned.
More cheering is the work of the city’s Municipal Housing Trust and the reduced use of B&B accommodation – altogether ended by Solihull Council after the raising of concerns in 2013.
Cllr. Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for housing and homes, said in September: “In the last three years we have brought around 1,000 empty properties back into use, providing homes for Birmingham’s citizens and improving neighbourhoods. Astonishingly, more than 5,000 privately owned properties in the city have been vacant for more than six months and 1,900 have been empty for more than three years. By speeding up the process through delegating decisions we can build on our success and bring more of these empty properties back into use. “
And today Birmingham City Council’s ambassador for homelessness and tackling rough sleeping, Cllr Sharon Thompson, shows considerable insight into the latter:
“The truth is that we have enough space for all our rough sleepers and our daily outreach staff work hard to encourage them to use both our accommodation and our specialist services. We have hostel beds, a drop-in welfare service and drop-in food service. We have additional cold weather provision and specialist health services. Our outreach staff work with voluntary groups, the police and business wardens across the city to break down barriers and encourage rough sleepers to take up our beds and services.
“But 44% of our rough sleepers have mental health problems and 74% of our rough sleepers have substance addictions, so it’s not just a question of a bed and some food. It’s a big commitment for someone already living a chaotic life on the streets to join a programme to help their addiction”.
An experienced volunteer adds that if these problems are resolved, only regular work can prevent a relapse. Failing this the best alternative is the Emmaus approach. We could use four of these centres in our city.
19 other posts on the important subject of housing are listed here. https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/housing-18-blogs/