homelessness in london

Homelessness in London: not just a ‘Christmas Crisis’ (Source: FlickrCC Victoria Johnson)

Each Christmas, homelessness in London and the rest of the UK is taken a bit more seriously than it usually is. Charities such as Crisis at Christmas – Europe’s largest volunteer-run event – go to great lengths to provide companionship, support, shelter and a hot meal to homeless people on Christmas Day. This is admirable, but, as was pointed out in the Guardian earlier this week, still not enough to tackle the full blown hurricane that now howls around housing policy, driving more and more people into homelessness or temporary accommodation.

The article struck a chord with me. Every day we see thousands roughing it on the streets of London, yet it seems whatever help they receive will never be enough.

There is an easy, obvious, explanation for why this is happening; and there is a less obvious but more immediate one. The easy, obvious explanation is the catastrophic shortage of new homes. That drives up prices while banks continue to demand deposits of at least 5%. In London this could be upwards of £7,000 – a figure beyond the reach of many first-time buyers. Subsequently, the cost of renting is pushed up even further.

The less obvious but now most pressing reason for the hurricane is this:

(quote from the Guardian, since I couldn’t put it better myself) “since 2010 there has been a ferocious squeeze on welfare. By March 2016 almost £15bn had been cut from the work and pensions budget. This has a disastrous knock-on effect in housing benefits, and changes coming next April are only likely to make the situation worse.

Single under-35s will only be entitled to support if they share a room, and in many parts of the UK housing support would probably not be enough to be able to afford somewhere to rent. At the same time, child benefit will be restricted to the first two children, and for out-of-work families all benefits will be capped at £23,000 in London, £20,000 in the rest of the country.

Families who have three children and can’t find a job, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing, will by next April be likely to struggle to find social housing they can afford anywhere in England. The gap between what benefits will pay for, and what rents cost, has grown so large that in many places only about a 10th of homes in the private rented sector are within reach. Meanwhile, for many people in work, pay has barely increased since 2008.”

homeless at Christmas

Homeless at Christmas. An all too familiar sight in London. (Source: FlickrCC Alisdare Hickson)

Government Funding

In fairness to Theresa May’s government, measures to fix this major problem are being taken. May has just pledged £20 million to “put prevention at the heart of tackling homelessness in London” and a further £10 million to help those at imminent risk of becoming homeless.

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans to enable homeless people to move out of London hostels and refuges with a £50 million fund. This funding is available to housing providers as part of the £3.15 billion Affordable Homes Programme, put into place by the government in Autumn.

So there may be better days ahead but for the foreseeable future the trend will undeniably remain the same.

Homelessness in London Impacts Communities

Londoners who are forced into temporary accommodation face losing touch with their local communities.

Communities foster relationships, encourage happiness and undoubtedly support people through very hard times. If suddenly a family is told they must move across to the other side of London in order to have a roof over their heads, imagine how that will impact them. It would be catastrophic. And the reality is this is happening every day.

Homelessness in London is not just a Christmas crisis. It’s one of the UK’s biggest problems and is getting worse by the year. It’s wonderful that so much money has been pledged towards solving the problem (in London) but the root of it must be tackled head on. It is not enough to throw millions at it and hope it will go away. All the relevant government departments must work together systematically until they find a proper solution.


Tunji Adebayo & Co specialises in sourcing commercial property for London based church groups. If you represent a church in need of a new home in your local area please get in touch via our contact page. We may have something for you.

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