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Archive for the ‘homeless’ Category

New Blog

Please note that the blog is now running through the main website.  To access the blog go to www.simononthestreets.co.uk and it’s on the front page.

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According to Bradford Speak Out:

“Four out of ten of single homeless people have squatted at some point, so Government plans to criminalise squatting risk hitting the most vulnerable.

Of course homeowners have to be protected and current laws should be enforced. But plans to criminalise people squatting in derelict buildings would penalise many who have no other option. We think that ministers need to focus on the root causes of homelessness, not its consequences.”

I think it also bolsters the point from last week’s blog about rough sleeper numbers: https://simonfoundation.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/rough-sleeper-numbers/ that the nubers don’t really matter, what’s inportant is how able we are to engage and support people in all areas of life and not simply their housing.  Our work has seen us over the years supporting many people who were sleeping in derelict buildings who have have been far more vulnerable than some people sleeping out in the open air.

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Channel 4 news last night reported on the rough sleeping numbers:  http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid601325122001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bctid=1137708210001 

 The report stated that official national numbers were 440 in 2010 and up to 1,768 in 2011, this rise was due to a change in the way the data was collected using estimates as well as actual counts.  The report gives some very interesting information not least that of a direct access hostel in Crawley that stated they had turned away 1,900 people over the last 12 months because they were full.

 I’m still not convinced these kind of sensationalised news stories are really doing anything constructive.  Talking about providing housing and getting people off the streets seems a bit like a sticking plaster reaction to something as a society we feel is wrong.  The real challenge for most rough sleepers is far greater and more deeply rooted than somewhere to live and without a real sustained effort to overcome all their challenges and the underlying root causes providing housing is at best a short term fix and at worst a fast track to an eviction and little chance of re-housing further down the line sustainability is a more viable option.

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It’s an interesting day for news.  The justice committee have revealed today that probation officers spend just 24% of their time interacting with offenders.  This has been blamed on a “tick box”, “bean counting” culture.  But the question is who sets the targets that create the culture? … A rhetorical question – it’s the civil servants responding to the MPs.  But, it’s not the same MPs as the news reports today are pointing out, the current government are blaming the last lot!  This simply doesn’t stack up, not least because ‘the current lot’ are in control when the other news story of the day was about the new policy for inspections of social workers.  Surely something like this is going to send teams into the offices to ensure all the boxes are ticked and beans are counted…

It’s really tough getting the balance right, but the way to get the best out of people is to put the most you can into them.  One of the reasons we don’t take government funding for our work is to ensure we spend as much time as possible supporting people and keep the paperwork to a minimum.  This is crucial with our service users – click the empathy exercise at the top of the page to get an idea of why people need some really intensive support to change their lives.

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The Children’s Society yesterday reported on the numbers of pre-teen runaways increasing (link below) and the risks that these young people face once they have fled their home or care. The report noted that a child runs away from home every five minutes in the UK and one in three of these will go unreported.

As a society we seem easily able to understand the impact that this type of thing has on children and how unacceptable it is that they are left in such a vulnerable position. The report also said:

“Agencies are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and often fail to see runaways as children in need. Yet the report reveals that a quarter of them are forced to leave, often fleeing violence, abuse and chaos at home.”

For us we know these young people who miss out on a good start in life and then slip through the net of services all too often end up as adults with some fairly challenging support needs. The tough bit for us to swallow is when these people aren’t children anymore ‘as a society’ we seem to think differently. But they are the same people with the same traumatic pasts, they simply can’t be seen as ‘helpless’ anymore even though they are officially vulnerable adults.

A few hundred years ago these people were known as ‘sturdy beggars’, and were punished for begging when they were physically able to work. Today society is still obsessed with people’s physical ability to work and blames ‘choices’ to become drug or alcohol dependent adults or their irrational and problematic behaviour as the reason for their situation. As the above shows we have to get away from the physical and have more capacity to work with the emotional and psychological state if people in this situation are to find a way to reach their own potential.

http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/report-worrying-new-trends-increasing-pre-teen-and-male-runaways

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After blogging yesterday about the Local Government Ombudsman warning councils about their conduct we encountered some challenges!  The Ombudsman’s report stated:

“We may criticise councils that:
use homelessness prevention activity to block or delay the consideration of a homelessness application

insist that applicants for help with homelessness must complete a specific form, or be interviewed by a specialist homelessness assessment officer

place the burden of proof on the applicant – authorities should make their own enquiries when considering applications, or

defer taking an application because the application appears to be a non-priority – any applicant claiming immediate homelessness should be assessed on the day.”

Yesterday one of our workers was supporting a rough sleeper with many complex needs including some real health problems and pretty much got a full house on all the above, leaving him to sleep rough again last night.  The problem is that this individual (like so many others) is a vulnerable adult and very unlikely to get through a local authority’s complaint procedure – getting everything set-up right to approach for a homelessness assessment was hard enough!  Therefore cases like this will never get as far as an ombudsman making poor practice in Local Authorities very hard to root out!

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The local Government Ombudsman has expressed concerns around how Local Authourities behave when people seek help and advice around their homelessness issues in the current economic climate.  ‘Gatekeeping’ is the term that keeps popping up.  We certainly find it frustrating that the people we support who really struggle to engage well with support services and have many complex support needs can find themselves not only wanting help but needing to be motivated enough to fight hard in order to get what they are entitled to.

Dr Jane Martin, Ombudsman and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England, said:

“The complaints we receive suggest councils should consider how they meet their responsibilities to homeless people. We see too many cases where individuals have suffered injustice at a particularly precarious moment in their lives when they most needed help.

“Often extremely vulnerable, they can find themselves sleeping rough or on people’s sofas, struggling to find the foothold that would allow them to change their circumstances. When councils fail to give them a helping hand at that key moment, it can affect that individual for years.

“I am concerned that more people could now suffer injustice because of the combined impact of a tough economic climate and the serious budget pressures on councils. It’s really important that councils are alert to this very significant risk. We want to help them understand the dangers and take action to avoid mistakes.”

For more info: http://www.lgo.org.uk/news/2011/jul/lgo-highlights-councils-failings-legal-duties-homeless-people/

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