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What is the cause of becoming homeless?

A question one often asks is “What is the cause of homelessness? Why do people become homeless?” Well there isn’t a simple straight forward answer to any of these questions.

Homelessness is a problem that has recently come to light as a real social issue in the United Kingdom. Seeing a homeless person in major towns and cities in the UK has now become the ‘norm’ but it is still incredibly shocking that in the 21st Century, in a modern world country, we still have people living on our streets. Towards the end of last year, comedian, Russell Howard brought the issue to light in his show The Russell Howard Hour

Towards the end of every year in the autumn period, since 2010, every local authority in England is made to do a count by the Government Department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The count is an annual event and allows local authorities to see changes in the population of homeless people living on our streets.

To be counted as homeless you have to meet a certain criteria when the count takes place. The government set a direct definiton of what is classed as being a rough sleeper. They define a rough sleeper as:

“People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes” which are makeshift shelters, often comprised of cardboard boxes).” (Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government)

When local authorities are completing their counts they have to adhere to the goverment’s definition of rough sleeping, meaning that there are still some people that won’t meet the requirements and as such are left out of the count. This is because some people decide to sleep in very remote and discrete places (such as bushes and hedgerows) for their own peace of mind. It is important to remember that the figures submitted by undertaking an official count are only inclusive of rough sleepers and not the homeless community as a whole. Those living in temporary accomadation in B&Bs, hostels, sofa surfing and squatting aren’t counted.

Some of the statistics that can be pulled out of the 2016 count are that there were 4,134 people recorded to be rough sleeping in England with 509 (12%) of those people being female and a staggering 288 (7%) of those people being under the age of 25. The graphics below show some of the findings from the data.

(Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2010, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government).

 

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Today, 25th January 2018, the data for the 2017 count has been released by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Some of the statistics that can be pulled out of the 2017 count are that there were 4,751 people recorded to be rough sleeping in England, an increase of 617 (13%), with 653 (14%) of those people being female and 370 (8%) of those people being under the age of 25, including 3 people counted as under the age of 18.

Portsmouth saw an increase in it’s rough sleeper population from 37 in 2016 to 42 in 2017, an increase of 13.5% with an increase from 4 females in 2016 to 6 females in 2017, an increase of 33.3%. The number of rough sleepers under the age of 25 also rose from 0 in 2016 to 2 in 2017. No rough sleeper counted in Portsmouth was believed to be under the age of 18.

The graphics below show some of the findings from the data.

(Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2010, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2017, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government)

 

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So, what is the cause of homelessness? Why do people become homeless? There is no one single reason as to why somebody becomes homeless. It is normally a multitude of factors that play a role. Findings from unofficial research carried out by Helping Hands Portsmouth found that common reasons were family breakdown at a young age, and sometimes a step-parent being on the scene and not getting on with the person at a young age. PTSD and mental health issues were among some of the other reasons as well as addiction, prison and disability.

The BBC produced an online article about the stories of some homeless people that live in coastal towns and cities, just like Portsmouth. The link can be found here. BBC South Today also interviewed some of the regions homeless to give them a chance to tell their stories. The link can be found here.

One of our core values here at Helping Hands Portsmouth is that we treat every person we meet on the streets with respect, compassion and dignity. We understand that everyone’s story as to why they are living on the street is different.

We ask that you don’t tar everyone with the same brush. The people living  on our streets are human beings, just like you and I. Treat them with respect. Offering them a sandwich at lunchtime is so simple, yet you maybe the first person they’ve spoken to since lunchtime the day before.

All information used in this article has been sourced and details of sources have been given at the appropriate times. Data for the Rough Sleep Count in Portsmouth was obtained on 28th December 2017 by a Freedom of Information Act (2000) request to Portsmouth City Council. Helping Hands Portsmouth would like to thank Portsmouth City Council for their cooperation with the request.

2017 – What a blast!

Well, what can we say. 2017 has been a blast for Helping Hands Portsmouth. Thank you for all your support throughout the year that made it possible. We invite you to watch our short video about our 2017. I’m sure you will agree it has been amazing!

Finally, we hope you have had a good Christmas and wish you all the very best for a successful and healthy 2018!

 

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

On the street it’s every man for himself, right?

Well, no. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Gruff kindness and quiet comradeship between the homeless men and women is something we often observe.

We thought we would share some of the things we’ve witnessed in a series of weekly posts. Here’s the fourth…

…when a young, pregnant woman came over dizzy and sick one night as she walked home, three street sleepers were on it. They carefully sat her down, wiped her forehead, got her water and fussed over her like three midwives. She got a telling off for wearing such high heels and advice about eating more low carb snacks. All men, all a bit intimidating to walk past normally. All fathers in another life…

Small moments, easily missed but proving that life can take literally everything from you – except your humanity.

Gratitude Saturday: 7th April 2018

Saturday is Gratitude Day. Our favourite!

A huge and heartfelt thank you to the following people for supporting us with such kindness this week.
❤️When a community works together, nobody needs to be cold, isolated or hungry❤️

Charley McBride, Charlotte Mizzi, Victoria Edgar, Hilda Green, Anna Hele, Rebecca Stevens Stb Ford, Anna, Joan Leeming, Jodie Newell, Sharron Ponsford

 

If you would like to support us in anyway please feel free to contact us through this page, email us here, or contact a member of the admin team through Facebook.

Thank you_street_3

Gratitude Day: 10th March 2018

Saturday is Gratitude Day. Our favourite!

A huge and heartfelt thank you to the following people for supporting us with such kindness this week.
❤️When a community works together, nobody needs to be cold, isolated or hungry❤️

Sharron Ponsford, Issy Scott, Elizabeth Richardson, Annette Nash and Monica, Joan Leeming, Jamie George Gray, Lynette, June Goldring, Charley McBride, Nadine Hodge, Nick Courtney, Brina Taylor and Enid hor ought

Thank you_street_2

Gratitude Day: 17th March 2018

Saturday is Gratitude Day. Our favourite!

A huge and heartfelt thank you to the following people for supporting us with such kindness this week.
❤️When a community works together, nobody needs to be cold, isolated or hungry❤️

Anna Hargill, Jessica Amerla, Dave Painter, Tracie White, Becky Louise, Becki Short, Andrea Ferris, Andria Brikkany, Emma Staniforth 

Thank you_street_4

Gratitude Day: 31st March 2018

Saturday is Gratitude Day. Our favourite!

A huge and heartfelt thank you to the following people for supporting us with such kindness this week.

❤️When a community works together, nobody needs to be cold, isolated or hungry❤️

Elizabeth Richardson, Tracey Collins, Cathy Staniforth, Carly Kirven, Jamie Grey, Kaley Souza, Emma Staniforth, Hilda Green, Andrea Ferris, Nexa Properties, Kirsty Jones, Nadine Hodge, Anna Lamb, Sharron Ponsford and Mitchell, Fiona Solomon, 3 Cocktail Bar, Joan Fillingham, Rachel and Rosie, Jamie from Harbour Vets, Jodie Newell, Kath O’sullivan, Trudi Victoria Cocks

❤️❤️❤️and our most heartfelt gratitude to…….the lovely local vet who would prefer to remain anonymous but helped a homeless man and his dog with incredible kindness, patience and compassion.

 

Thank you_street_1

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother: 5th April 2018

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

On the street it’s every man for himself, right?

Well, no. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Gruff kindness and quiet comradeship between the homeless men and women is something we often observe.

We thought we would share some of the things we’ve witnessed in a series of weekly posts. Here’s the third…..

….when one of the guys finally got his benefits sorted out, he wanted to treat his street friends. Not with booze and cigarettes: with a donation to us of orange juice, bananas, bacon and milk…

Small moments, easily missed but proving that life can take literally everything from you – except your humanity.

*some names changed for safeguarding

cropped-logo_2017_v1_ryder1.jpg

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother: 29th March 2018

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER

On the street it’s every man for himself, right?

Well, no. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Gruff kindness and quiet comradeship between the homeless men and women is something we often observe.

We thought we would share some of the things we’ve witnessed in a series of weekly posts. Here’s the second…..

….many of the street sleepers working together, as a team and without fuss, to keep an eye on one of the dogs whose owner is vulnerable at the moment. They know he needs his dog and they do their best to help….

Small moments, easily missed but proving that life can take literally everything from you – except your humanity…

cropped-logo_2017_v1_ryder1.jpg

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother: 21st March 2018

On the street it’s every man for himself, right?

Well, no. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Gruff kindness and quiet comradeship between the homeless men and women is something we often observe.

We thought we would share with you some of the street kindness that we’ve witnessed in a series of weekly posts. Here’s the first…

…the day Gary gently eased off Dave’s shoes to check his feet then, shocked and upset at their condition, half carried him to the bus to go to hospital….

Small moments, easily missed, which prove that life can take literally everything from you – except your humanity.

cropped-logo_2017_v1_ryder1.jpg

 

*names may be changed for safeguarding

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

On 3rd April 2018, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 is enstated into UK Law. But what does it all mean? 

Background

Homelessness in the UK is on the increase with figures showing 4,751 people sleeping rough in autumn 2017, an increase of 15% from 2016.

Bob Blackman MP began the private member’s bill, now formerly known as the Homelessness Reduction BillHomelessness Reduction Act, in 2016 with the aim of ensuring more support and preventative measures are taken to reduce homelessness in the UK. The private members bill was supported and worked on by a group of MPs, including former Portsmouth South MP, Flick Drummond.

 

Since the bill’s beginning in 2016 and after many consultations and hearings at the committee, House of Commons and House of Lords, the bill finally became an Act of Law in 2017 with it coming into force in 2018.

 

So, what does it all mean?

The Homelessness Reduction Act has changed the way Local Authorities now deal with people who are homeless and are at risk of becoming homeless.

Risk of becoming homeless – the period deemed to evaluate someone’s risk of becoming homeless was a mere 28 days, baring in mind housing options services only operate Monday – Friday in most Local Authorities, this meant risk had to be assessed and advice is given accordingly within 20 working days at most.

This has now been extended to 56 days, allowing local authorities more time to assess, advice and implement prevention measures to reduce somebody’s risk of becoming homeless.

Duty to provide advisory services – Local Authorities are now required to provide free, informative services to everyone within their respective area. Portsmouth, for example, this would be everyone living on Portsea Island and those living in Cosham, Farlington, Drayton and Portchester.

The information needed to be provided includes advice on preventing homelessness, securing accommodation if homeless, the rights of people who are homeless or threatened by homelessness as well as any help that is available to someone who is at risk of or is registered homeless as well as how to access that help.

This advice service should be designed to reach out to groups of people thought to be more at risk of homelessness, such as people leaving prison; care leavers; people who have left the Defence Services (Army, Royal Marines, RAF, Navy); domestic abuse victims; people suffering from mental health illnesses.

New Duties – in the past Local Authorities have assessed people and given help based on ‘priority need’ (see figure 1) with those having priority need having accommodation secured for them. The non-priority need is only, usually, given advice and assistance to find accommodation.

However, the new law obliges Local Authorities to provide more meaningful assistance to those who are homeless and threatened with homelessness regardless of if they are a priority or not. The priority need will still stand as the procedure.

Agree on a plan – the new framework means that needs assessments have to be carried out to ensure a suitable and sensible plan meets the need of the individual person. Elements of the assessment include why the person became homeless and what support they need in their home if any.

This plan will ensure that accommodation can be secured and retained by the person according to their needs.

Prevention – This has been mentioned previously in this article but the prevention period has increased to 56 days from 28. The Local Authority then must take reasonable steps to prevent the person from becoming homeless.

Failure to comply – Some people who find themselves homeless find it hard to interact and ‘jump through the necessary hoops’ in order to gain help and advice. The new law does have a term on which ‘Failure to Comply’ is dealt with. Failing to comply should be seen as ‘deliberately and unreasonably refusing’ to comply with the personal plan set out at the assessment stage.

Failing to comply would result in relief and prevention duties being limited to securing accommodation for a temporary period until eligibility for assistance ceases; the person becomes homeless intentionally leaving accommodation made available to them; accepts an offer of assured tenancy from a private landlord; accepts or refuses a ‘final’ offer of accommodation.

When deciding if someone has deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate with the Local Authority, they must take into account the circumstances and needs of the individual.

Carers Leave – anyone under the age of 21 will be deemed to have a local connection with the area if they were cared for, fostered or accommodated within the local area for a period of at least 2 years.

 

This new legislation that has come into force does have the main aim of providing a framework for Local Authorities when dealing with people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness for whatever reason.

For the legislation to be effective within the local area, Local Authorities should ideally seek to work with all organisations who interact and work with the homeless community as well as the organisations that work with those who are at risk of becoming homeless.

 

 

*All information in this article is that interpreted from the legislation by Helping Hands Portsmouth. Details of the official legislative act can be found here.

 

Easter Sunday 2018

Easter on the streets.

Easter is often like Christmas. A family time, when the city shuts down for the day and most of us retreat into our homes for good food, company, warmth and lots of indulgence. Very hard to be homeless but society does at least reach out to the street sleepers.

Easter Sunday is no different. The streets are empty, shops shut and homeless men and women are left behind – their loneliness and isolation felt even more strongly than normal. Very, very few people reach out though.

We’re on it! Easter eggs, hot food, laughter and company is our mission today.

Tonight’s food is a hot roast turkey meal with veg and gravy. Roast dinners are very liked amongst our friends living on the street.