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Homelessness Reduction Bill Could Change The Way We Think About Homelessness, If The Government Funding Follows

30/10/2016 22:32
Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Carol & Mike Werner via Getty Images

For too long homelessness and rough sleeping have been seen primarily by governments of all political colours as something to deal with at the point of crisis when someone has already been forced out of the home, either as a result of economic struggles or family breakdown.

Charities such as Centrepoint support in our hostels across the country thousands of young people who have reached crisis point every year. Working with local councils we attempt to not only accommodate those young people in desperate need of a home, but also to help them tackle the physical and mental health problems caused by homelessness and rough sleeping.

But the key to ending homelessness for people of all ages is not to focus just on accommodating people who are already homeless, but to intervene to prevent homelessness happening in the first place.

Conservative Bob Blackman MP's proposed new law would place on councils a legal duty to support people at risk of homelessness much earlier. If its ambitions are matched by government funding for local authorities then the Homelessness Reduction Bill could be a catalyst for changing how the country thinks about homelessness.

As a new report published this week by Centrepoint shows the cost of waiting to provide help until someone loses their home, is kicked out by their family, or flees domestic violence runs to thousands of pounds.

Early intervention and support to prevent family breakdown is at the heart of ending youth homelessness in the 21st Century. It is not only the right thing to do but also offers the best deal for the government and the public as our new research report estimates that supporting a young person who is both homeless and not in education, employment or training costs almost £20,000 per year to support.

59% of the young people who come to Centrepoint are homeless due to family relationship breakdown. Our research shows that this is the result of an escalation of complex problems such as poverty, unemployment, parental conflict, poor mental health, and involvement in crime.

Bob Blackman's Bill, and the support it enjoys from all the major political parties is a massive step in the right direction, changing as it does homelessness legislation in a substantial way for the first time in almost 40 years.

But the Bill must only be a first step. The government must allow councils the chance, both financially and legislatively, to reimagine how we tackle homelessness in London and across the country. That means moving away from housing-only solutions and looking at how charities, the government and councils can work together to provide support for other tackle aspects of homelessness such as family mediation, access to mental health services, and training schemes for unemployed young people.

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