Blog: Director of Special Strategic Projects shares our approach on tackling homelessness
‘World Homeless Day’ encourages us to pause and consider the extent and impact of homelessness in our region. It is a huge social injustice that in 2019 the gap between rich and poor is as wide as ever. The numbers of people sleeping rough has increased steadily over the last decade, to the point that for some rough sleeping has become ‘the norm’. But it is not normal. And it is not right that the basic human need for shelter is not being met.
At the very least, the sight of people sleeping on our streets prickles our conscience and for some, it drives us to take action. At Flagship, we are driven to act.
We have been working over the last six months to understand the issue in greater detail. In our heartland of Norfolk and Suffolk, between 2017/18 over 2,600 households approached the council to say they were homeless. At the end of March '18, over 400 households were living in temporary accommodation, 115 of which were in bed and breakfast and a further 110 were counted as sleeping rough. We know that this is the tip of the iceberg as many others reside in inadequate or insecure accommodation.
Last year we housed 320 homeless households and when supporting those who have been homeless, we do more than just ‘hand over the keys’. Tackling homelessness is a challenge and we are mindful of the need to help address the root causes including poverty, mental health and domestic abuse.
We support customers to set up their home and to stay there for as long as they choose. We offer financial support to maximise people’s incomes, we provide four hostels for homeless households and we lease properties to specialist support providers such as the Benjamin Foundation and Leeway.
We have also signed up to the national ‘Homes for Cathy’ campaign, which directs housing provider’s activities towards nine commitments to raise awareness of the needs of the homeless and work on strategies to end homelessness.
However, there is more we can do. We are developing a work-plan to help prevent homelessness among existing customers, support other agencies working to tackle rough sleeping and work with local authorities to develop new services to address unmet need.
Our goal is to solve the housing crisis in the east of England. We can’t do that without helping to tackle homelessness and we are committed to making an impact.
Jo Barrett, Director of Special Strategic Projects, Flagship Group