Homelessness charity Crisis was formed 50 years today in response to unacceptable levels of homelessness in the UK. It was never meant to be still campaigning half a century later. Crisis is marking its anniversary with a conference in London bringing together housing experts, politicians, academics and campaigners.
The Ending Homelessness conference, which will be followed by events in Glasgow on May 15 and Cardiff on May 24, is the start of a year-long project that will lead to “a plan to show how together we can end homelessness once and for all.”
This plan will be published at the end of Crisis’s 50th year, in April 2018.
Today’s event in London includes a keynote speech from Shadow Minister for Housing Andy Slaughter MP, sessions on the innovative Housing First approach championed by the Big Issue, and the Homelessness Reduction Bill, plus Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid outlining government plans for ending homelessness.
The conference takes place at the start of a General Election in which homelessness should be a huge issue. Rising house prices, falling wages, benefit sanctions and the removal of housing benefit for young people are just some of the issues that have led to the increase in homelessness in this country. Former Health Secretary Andy Burnham has already called for homelessness to be at the centre of the campaign: “I challenged the Prime Minister today on record levels of homelessness in Greater Manchester. No answer. Needs to be General Election issue,” he Tweeted.
Rough sleeping in England has increased 134% since 2009/10 according to the latest figures. Local authority statutory homelessness cases recorded in 2015-16 were almost 30% higher than in 2010 and continue to rise.
Prime Minister Theresa May, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and First Minister Carwyn Jones pledged to work with Crisis to end homelessness – though the proof of the pudding will be in the policy they produce.
May echoed Big Issue founder John Bird’s call to put prevention at the heart of homelessness policy in her filmed message for the conference. “Solving homelessness is about much more than putting a roof over someone’s head,” she said. “It is about stopping people from becoming homeless in the first place, and that’s why we are putting prevention at the heart of our approach.”
Sturgeon also said prevention was key: “Tackling all forms of homelessness must be a priority for any government,” she said. “Here in Scotland we have made real progress in preventing homelessness, and we now have some of the strongest rights for homeless people in the world.”
Homelessness is wholly unacceptable in the 21st century
Jones gave a strong commitment to tackling the causes of homelessness. He said: “Homelessness is wholly unacceptable in the 21st century. The Welsh Government is determined to end rough sleeping and all forms of homelessness.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, launched the Ending Homelessness conference. He said: “As we’ve seen, the political will is there, and over the coming year we’ll be bringing together the people, evidence and resources to help make our vision a reality. We know we can’t do this alone, but we’re ready for the challenge, and I hope that in 50 years’ time Crisis – and homelessness – will have been consigned to the history books.”
Congratulations to Crisis on their 50 years. We must all now demand concrete action to back up the warm words from politicians at this crucial time in the fight to end homelessness in this country…