Opinion

We urgently need a fresh cross-government approach to ending homelessness

Labour promised to ‘put Britain back on track to ending homelessness’. Here's how Keir Starmer can do it

There's too much at stake not to get back on track to ending homelessness, writes Charlotte Talbott. Image: Emmaus

Labour promised to ‘put Britain back on track to ending homelessness’ in their party manifesto as part of a cross-government strategy. There’s too much at stake not to.

With rough sleeping up 27% in the last year alone, and more than 300,000 people currently homeless, the UK holds the unwanted accolade of leading the G7 when it comes to homelessness.

Here at Emmaus, record numbers are reaching out for help. The homelessness crisis across the UK is truly unacceptable in a nation with the resources to tackle it.

To the new prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer, I say Emmaus stands ready to assist in launching this potentially transformative agenda, and we will hold the government to account on this.

Clearly, nowhere near enough has been done to reverse a trend which is so deeply damaging, not only for the individuals who experience homelessness but for society as a whole.

Building more houses alone won’t solve the homelessness crisis

Housing is always going to be crucial when it comes to tackling homelessness, that’s why providing a home and community is a central part of what we do at Emmaus. 

But it will take much more than building more houses for long-lasting change. A cross-government approach is urgently needed because the causes of homelessness are many and varied; challenges with employment, physical and mental health, welfare and more can all have an impact on someone losing their home. 

The time for turning words on ending homelessness into a reality is now

Though it was pleasing to see all political parties commit to further action on homelessness in the run up to the election, we don’t need more of the same, or trying harder with the approach that has been taken previously.

At Emmaus we know what it takes to end homelessness for good. Drawing on our decades of experience in over 30 communities across the UK, we bring housing together with work opportunities and person-centred support, and we see the benefits of working in this way every day.

We know from working together with people with experience of homelessness that there is a security and stability that comes with having a home again and a supportive community. Self-esteem is improved through the purpose of work opportunities and hope is regained, helping them to move forward to a brighter future. 

It’s a privilege to witness the transformational impact Emmaus has for thousands of people.

The government must take a similarly holistic and joined up approach to its work to end homelessness for individuals and across society.

In our recently-published Emmaus Action On Homelessness manifesto we call for the creation of a cross-government taskforce and strategy on ending homelessness,

This is also a central theme in the key asks of other charities and organisations because only by working across government can the full range of causes of homelessness be addressed.

Every government department has an important role to play 

This means the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities must ensure a much stronger supply of social housing, so people can afford to have a place to live. 

The Department for Work and Pensions needs to make sure there are good work and training opportunities for people who have experienced homelessness, so they can secure good jobs.

And the Department of Health and Social Care must improve treatment and support for severe mental health needs, which are so often a leading cause of homelessness.

Emmaus looks forward to working with the new government and others to make sure there is long lasting change on homelessness, to put a stop to this terrible and devastating injustice.

Charlotte Talbott is the CEO of Emmaus UK

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