TJ’s Blog: SIG Join National Charities for Homelessness Lobby

Following SIG’s day of advocacy at Parliament last week, Penrose Roots member TJ Matthews shares the importance of the Ending Homelessness Together Lobby, the impact of homelessness and the changes we need to see to address this urgent issue.

On March 5th, 2024, I had the privilege of attending, alongside fellow members of Penrose and Social Interest Group, a pivotal Parliamentary Lobby organised by Homeless Link and Riverside. Under the banner of “Ending Homelessness Together”, the event brought together homelessness sector leaders, people with lived experience, and MPs from across the political spectrum.

Our collective goal was clear – to push for governmental action to end homelessness in Britain. “Everybody needs a place to call home, and the support to keep it”, opened Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link.

The statistics paint a stark picture. Despite billions being spent on housing support and temporary accommodation, Homeless charity Shelter report that rough sleeping has surged by 20% since 2010. In 2023 alone, 109,000 households were living in temporary accommodation, including nearly 139,000 children, up by 14% from the year prior.

With 1 in every 100 UK children homeless, Bob Blackman, Co-Chair of the APPG for Ending Homelessness, says it’s time to start treating “homelessness as a humanitarian crisis”.

The ask from the homelessness sector is focused on four key evidence-based points:

  1. Commit funding to build 90,000 social homes per year for the next decade and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance to cover the lowest 30th percentile of market rents.
  2. Adopt a cross-government strategy to end homelessness, led by a task force directed by the Cabinet Office.
  3. Ensure a diverse network of person-centred, trauma-informed services and sustainable housing options are accessible for every person experiencing homelessness.
  4. Review all homelessness-related spending and replace piecemeal, short-term funding with a long-term, ring-fenced homelessness support fund that flexibly adapts to local and individual needs.

Additionally, mental health is closely intertwined with homelessness. 45% of people experiencing homelessness have been diagnosed with a mental health issue, rising to 80% for those sleeping rough. Conversely, mental health problems are a common cause of homelessness – estimated at 26% of homeless people in the UK.

As someone intimately familiar with the mental health services of NHS Trusts, and for other members of Penrose, we’ve faced the limitations firsthand. Reform of the Mental Health Act, delayed for far too long, must be a manifesto priority.

Our ask is for a system less reliant on overcrowded secure wards, the abolishment of ineffective community treatment orders that disproportionately impact black people, and automatic advocates for everyone who wants one in mental health hospitals.

Like homelessness support, the mental health sector suffers from fragmentation and short-term funding. A more evidence-based, trauma-informed approach is desperately needed.

Overall, the Parliamentary Lobby saw homelessness organisations engaging with over 70 MPs. We had the opportunity to meet with our local representatives Rachel Hopkins MP, Sarah Owen MP, and Mohammad Yasin MP to advocate for both ending homelessness and the long-overdue Mental Health Act reform.

The solutions to end homelessness are known and achievable. As John Glenton from Riverside succinctly puts it: “We know the answers, it is about political will”. Here’s hoping the next government, whatever form it takes, heeds this call to action. The human cost of inaction is simply too high.