Back in October 2018 I wrote this article, so I am not surprised one bit that another homeless person has died on our streets. Unless the government and the council act there are going to be more, this isn’t something unforeseen which is happening. We knew this was coming, we know there has been hundreds of homeless deaths on the streets of this country. Sadly there are going to be many, many, more.
Last week a homeless man was found dead on the streets of Corby, his name was John Holland. Unless we want this to become the new norm, it is imperative that the council act to avert any more homeless deaths this winter.
The Dying Homeless campaign recorded a minimum of 449 homeless deaths in the past year, with seven of those deaths being attributed to our county.
Unless the county and the government start taking immediate steps this figure is likely to increase, in the last year alone 43,140 families were accepted as homeless by their local authority. Rough sleeping has risen year on year for the past seven years, with homelessness charities claiming it has risen a whopping 169% since 2010!
The government put forward the Homeless Reduction Act 2018, which came into force in April – yet this clearly falls short, as the problem shows no signs of abating.
Northampton and the 20 or so local authorities in similar financial dire straits are clearly going to have problems with the financial commitments, yet the current approach is costing us millions already.
Wellingborough spent £1m on temporary accommodation last year, while councils in England spent a combined total of £937m.
There are huge sums of money being spent on putting a plaster on the problem, because our approach to helping the homeless is itself problematic.
It is time we went back to the drawing board and moved back to the basics, because unless there is a cultural shift in how we are helping the homeless, then it looks like huge sums of money are going to be wasted and people are going to continue to die.
There needs to be a more holistic approach to helping the homeless, purpose run and built accommodation that provides much more than shelter from the elements. Homeless people have a very complex set of needs which require specialist long term support. Unless we are working to address the underlying causes of homelessness, then no amount of temporary accommodation will solve the problem.
There are also barriers to seeking out help which can prevent the people in need getting what little help that is available. For example if a homeless person has a drug or alcohol problem they could be shut out from getting help, and mental health problems mean a homeless person may not be capable of seeking help at all.
In Northampton the task has fallen largely to the voluntary sector, yet these organisations can only do so much with the limited resources available to them.
We know these people are vulnerable, we know they are at risk, and if the authorities do not act to help them, we know some of them will die. Make no mistake the inaction of our authorities to protect and help the most vulnerable will mean they have blood on their hands.
It is time we start treating homeless people with dignity and respect, not judging them. Nobody should be living on the streets, and we should be doing everything we can to help those vulnerable members of our society who are