photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

Six leading charities have written a joint letter to leaders of all the main parties, demanding a review into the help available for homeless people.

The letter, signed by Crisis, Shelter, St Mungo’s Broadway, Centrepoint, Homeless Link and Housing Justice, says the next government has a “unique opportunity” to solve the “injustice” of people becoming homeless.

According to the charities, the average life expectancy for someone sleeping rough on the streets is just 47 years and they are “13 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime”. Research shows that eight out of ten homeless people have some sort of health problem, including those in temporary accommodation.

Homeless people turning to local authorities for help and support are being routinely turned away, or offered “inadequate or insufficient support”, which the charities describe as “nothing short of a scandal”. Councils have been left in the near impossible position of having to juggle services in the face of overall funding cuts, imposed upon them by the Tory-led coalition government.

Over 45,000 people in England have signed a petition calling for a review into homelessness support, and a recent survey found that only 15% of MPs think “homeless people get enough help from their council”. More than three-quarters agreed that homelessness should be a priority for whichever party forms the next government.

The letter reads: “Homelessness is a devastating experience. It’s isolating and frightening and often leaves people feeling invisible and ignored. At its most extreme it results in people being forced to sleep rough, with devastating consequences: the average age of death for a rough sleeper is just 47 and homeless people sleeping on the street are 13 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime.

“Research shows nearly eight in ten of all homeless people, including those offered respite in temporary accommodation, have some form of health problem. The shocking truth, however, is that even in the 21st century, in one of the richest countries in the world, homeless people who ask their local councils for help are being turned away to sleep on the streets. This is nothing short of a scandal.

“As members of the country’s leading homelessness organisations, we are calling on political parties to carry out a review of the assistance given to homeless people in England. The review should consider options for improving the assistance provided by local authorities to single homeless people who are not currently classified as priority need, while ensuring that vital protections for families and those considered priority need are maintained.

“Recent research into the help given to single homeless people who approach their local authority found that in over half of the visits they received inadequate or insufficient support. This echoes the experience of many households in priority need.  Across the country, this is likely to mean thousands of homeless people are turned away with nothing and many forced to sleep rough.

“Now is the time to act. All forms of homelessness have risen since 2010. It is vital that existing statutory protection is accessible and can be delivered in good faith. It is now also right that we consider whether single people are adequately served by current provision.

“In England, over 45,000 people have signed a petition calling for the law for single homeless people to be reviewed. It is not only members of the public who are concerned: a recent survey of MPs found only 15% think homeless people get enough help from their council, while nearly two thirds think councils should have a duty to do more to prevent homelessness. More than three quarters of MPs believe homelessness should be a priority for the government.

“Whoever forms the next government will have a unique opportunity to solve this injustice and prevent homeless people getting turned away. We are therefore asking you to please make a manifesto commitment to carry out a review of the assistance given to homeless people under the law and ensure this is treated as a priority if you are in government.”

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