A party press release yesterday said:
The Liberal Democrats have committed to ending the scandal of rough sleeping in Britain, as the Homelessness Reduction Bill enters into force today.
Following a campaign visit to the Hundred Houses Society, a charitable housing association in Cambridge, Tim Farron announced a series of measures the party would put in place to help end rough sleeping.
These include introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority, to put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters. Other policies include increasing funding for local councils for homelessness prevention, reinstating housing benefit for under-21s and reversing planned cuts to Local Housing Allowance rates.
This is a good reason to be very proud of our party. Making this commitment is a big deal. Housing is a basic human right, and we are right to base our policy on that.
Shelter advocate an approach based on the American “Housing First” model. I see that Tim Farron embraces that method.
As Shelter say:
…no single model of housing and support is likely to be effective for all homeless people with complex needs. (We have) previously called for the consideration and development of new approaches.
A lot of this is about basic “bricks and mortar”. There is a severe shortage of affordable housing.
On the other hand, much of this is about human interaction, the treatment of mental illness and addiction therapy.
There is no “once size fits all” approach.
Solving homelessness will require more trained professionals who go out onto the streets and treat each case one by one, with flexible support mechanisms behind them.
Even when hostel accommodation is available, there are those who, for a variety of reasons, prefer to sleep, or have to sleep, in tents, or sleep rough, unprotected from the elements. (Often hostels have a “one strike and you are out” approach to drug use on site – some people are “free spirits” and simply don’t want to be in an “institution”.).
So this is a really stubborn, complex problem which demands housing resources, but also the individual human touch.
One thing, I am sure of, is that Tim Farron has made the right initial move. We cannot, as a society, accept that there are homeless or even badly housed people amongst us and we must make a conscious effort to solve this shameful problem in our society.
It really is insane and disgraceful that we are a rich society with mobile phones and walk-in showers, but we have people curled up, barely protected from the cold, in our own towns and cities.
Commitment to eradicating this blight is the welcome first step in a long journey.