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Taking on homelessness: someone is

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Cathy Come Home, Homes for Cathy, Inside Housing, housing association groups, 9 committments, housing shortage, end homelessness, Shelter, Crisis, rough sleeping, B+BNational housing shortfall means one in every 200 people in Britain are homeless.

In the spring of 2016, a small group of housing associations that were formed in the 1960s and early 70s came together to mark the 50th anniversary of film ‘Cathy Come Home’ and to highlight the continuing needs of homeless people, as well as the challenges created by changes in the welfare system over recent years.

Cathy Come Home, a drama written by Jeremy Sandford and directed by Ken Loach about a young mother caught in an impossible, inhuman system which left her homeless, destroyed her marriage and ultimately robbed her of her children, was first broadcast in 1966.

It led to public outrage, a surge in donations to the charity Shelter and the founding of the charity Crisis the following year.

The most recent figures for now, 2018, show there were 1.15 million households waiting for a home in the social rented sector last year with only 290,000 homes made available.

This means there was a national shortfall of more than 800,000 homes.

And the number of families living in temporary accommodation in England has increased by 64 per cent since 2010, and rough sleeping has increased by 169 per cent over the same period.

Or put another way, a report Shelter released recently said that at least 320,000 people are recorded as being homeless in Great Britain.

A total of 295,000 people are in temporary accommodation, 5,000 people are rough sleeping, 15,000 people are in single homeless hostels and 5,000 people are with social services.

This means one in every 200 people in Britain are homeless and sleeping on the streets or stuck in temporary accommodation, including hostels and B&Bs.

And many practitioners believe that the rough sleeping figures – which come from the government – are an underestimate.

While the original membership of the housing association group, called Homes for Cathy, was focussed on housing associations established in the 1960s and early 1970s, the group now includes all housing associations who subscribe to the group’s principles and pledge, and who are willing to help achieve its aims.

Homes for Cathy has been organising a range of local and national events over the last two years, with the aim of raising awareness of the needs of the homeless and working on strategies to end homelessness, and works alongside the National Housing Federation, Shelter, Crisis and other groups campaigning for homeless people.

Homes for Cathy are calling upon all housing associations to do more to end homelessness by signing up to a set of nine commitments:

Commitment 1: To contribute to the development and execution of local authority homelessness strategies.

Commitment 2: To operate flexible allocations and eligibility policies which allow individual applicants’ unique set of circumstances and housing history to be considered.

Commitment 3: To offer constructive solutions to applicants who aren’t deemed eligible for an offer of a home.

Commitment 4: To not make any tenant seeking to prevent their homelessness, homeless (as defined by the plan definition).

Commitment 5: To commit to meeting the needs of vulnerable tenant groups.

Commitment 6: To work in partnership to provide a range of affordable housing options which meet the needs of all homeless people in their local communities.

Commitment 7: To ensure that properties offered to homeless people should be ready to move into.

Commitment 8: To contribute to ending migrant homelessness in the areas housing associations operate.

Commitment 9: To lobby, challenge and inspire others to support ending homelessness.

These nine commitments represent a challenge to housing associations to review their practices both to establish whether there is more they can do to house or support homeless people, and to consider whether they are putting barriers in the way of homeless people accessing their housing and services.

And they are a benchmark for housing associations to measure themselves against or can be a means of auditing a housing association’s social impact in this area.

And over the next few years, the Homes for Cathy group intends to continue lobbying for solutions that make a difference in the lives of homeless people and people at risk of homelessness; and to share good practice that help prevent homelessness and find secure homes for people who are homeless.

In an article for InsideHousing, about tackling homelessness, David Bogle, chief executive of Hightown Housing Association, said: ‘…our challenge to all housing association chief executives is to measure your organisation against the nine Homes for Cathy commitments and see how you shape up.

‘See the exercise as a dry run for a kind of social impact credit rating.

‘There is no need to publish the results. But it might reveal that your housing association could be doing more to end this crisis – and we owe it to the 320,000 homeless people to do everything we can!’

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