It’s been some time since I last posted, but in amongst changing jobs, getting on with my APC, working on NAWIC London’s project with Morley Von Sternberg “The Image of Women in Construction”, I am finally finding some time to write. And in this post, I wanted to address the issue of homelessness.
I have noticed so many more homeless people over the last year in London and it really is something I feel passionately about because it is not something that should be occurring in 2017 to the extent that it is. The numbers state there are over 8000 homeless sleeping on the streets in the UK and over 200,000 hidden homeless. More needs to be done to address this social issue that leaves people from all walks of life with little choice but to end up sleeping on the streets. There have been numerous articles talking about people spending days in libraries to keep warm, young professionals who have been evicted spending all day nursing a 99p filter coffee in Pret a Manger or the typical image associated with homelessness, men and women sleeping in doorways being ignored by commuters on their way to work.
In the run up to Christmas it is easy to get caught up in the festivities; the Christmas parties, the carol singing, the Christmas shopping and plans to avoid the in-laws. But now that the weather has turned and the snow is falling (even if just briefly last week in London) we need to be thinking about those sleeping rough this winter.
The lack of affordable housing, council housing and changes to benefits which has in turn led to an increased risk of evictions as rent arrears mount, means that those at risk of homelessness are left even more exposed. The government now places far too many people in what is considered “unsuitable” accommodation such as bed and breakfasts or hostels and has not yet put in place measures to tackle the lack of affordable housing available – an issue that can not be addressed overnight but certainly one that needs more attention!
The autumn budget looked at the issue of the unaffordability of housing and has helped first time buyers by scrapping stamp duty for properties up to £300,000 nationwide or the first £300,000 of properties up to £500k in London. But this does not really help those at risk of homelessness or who are already homeless overcome their lack of permanent, suitable accomodation. According to the government website, they have stated they will try and reduce rough sleeping to half by 2022 and eliminate it completely by 2017. They have also included a Homelessness Reduction Taskforce to assist with this target. By launching schemes like Housing First which support rough sleepers the government hopes to meet the target with an investment of £28m. However, with charities such as Crisis conducting research that says by 2041 homelessness will have increased to over half a million unless the government does more, the plans set out in the autumn 2017 budget are not likely to be sufficient.
What is the construction industry doing about it?
The RICS in conjunction with Land Aid have launched an initiative called UK Pledge 150, which aims to address the issue of youth at risk of homelessness. They aim to raise £2.25m in order to provide 150 beds in the UK for homeless youths. With charity events throughout the year, Land Aid and RICS are trying to raise this money to move forward with this project.
There are also charities that are helping to train people to work in the built environment. Beam is one such example of that. Beam crowdfunds employment training for homeless people helping them progress towards stable, paid work. They provide an alternative way to give to homeless people. Many people do not like to give without knowing that the money wont be spent on drugs or alcohol. With initiatives like Beam, the money is given directly to pay for training, and provides people with the tools to change their lives. They are gaining training in trades to become engineers, handymen and electrician to name a few.
If you would like to donate to UK Pledge 150 or to get more information at the work Beam do and look at individual people you can help fund training for please visit the links below.
Beam Crowdfunding: www.wearebeam.org
UK Pledge 150: http://www.rics.org/uk/news/news-insight/press-releases/rics-pledge-to-raise-225m-for-landaid/
or donate via text by texting RICS12 followed by £3, £5 or £10 to 70070.