By Peter Makossah
The number of rough sleepers in Nottingham has skyrocketed with figures hitting through the roof and the Robinhood City has now the highest rate of homelessness in the East Midlands, it has been established.
Black and Minority Ethnic groups are heavily affected with homelessness in the UK and in Nottingham in particular.
Black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts, with a third of those who had been homeless also reporting discrimination from a social or private landlord.
Homelessness is devastating, dangerous and isolating – the average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men and 42 for women -people sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence.
More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless.
Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.
New figures from registered charity Shelter estimates a total of 1614 people who are recorded as homeless in Nottingham – this means that one in 201 people in the city are registered as homeless.
This figure is “shocking”, said Denis Tully, CEO at Emmanuel House, an independent charity that supports people who are homeless, rough sleeping, in crisis, or at risk of homelessness in Nottingham.
He said that the problem exists despite the wide-ranging partnership working amongst agencies across the city to prevent homelessness, adding:
“Whilst lately the cost-of-living crisis in having a local effect, there is no doubt that national policy has greater impact.
“For example, the Right to Buy a council house reduces affordable housing. The Housing Benefits cap makes rented accommodation less affordable.
“This means that even with support, people get stuck in the system, while move-on options out of homelessness become less available.”
The worrying report also reveals 898 children are homeless in the city. Charities supporting the rough sleepers in the city said cuts continuing reductions in local authority budgets, mixed with the cost-of-living crisis has created the ‘perfect storm’.
Charities supporting homeless people in Nottingham recognised ‘immense pressure’ on the services aiming to help these groups.
Andrew Redfern, Chief Executive of Framework – a charity helping people achieve stable housing and health, social inclusion, financial stability, and independence, commented: “These numbers are a stark reminder that the temporary measures taken to bring people indoors during the Covid pandemic have not solved the long-term problem.
“We see immense pressure on services for single homeless people, homeless families and those with mental health, drug or alcohol issues.”
Their ‘number one ask’ to the government, as Mr. Redfern described it, is to re-create the successful Supporting People programme that “it [the government] abandoned despite weighty evidence of the dire consequences that this disastrous decision would have.”
The Supporting People programme was launched in 2003 as a £1.8 billion ring fenced grant to local authorities intended to fund services to help vulnerable people live independently.
In 2009, the ring fence was removed from the grant thereby allowing all local authorities to spend their Supporting People allocation as they deemed appropriate.
Mr. Redfern continued, adding: “The rise in single homelessness has its origins in the dismantling of the Supporting People programme over the past ten years. It is exacerbated by continuing reductions in local authority budgets and a shortage of homes, which the current level of new building is insufficient to tackle.
“Framework has been working closely with Nottingham City Council and other partners to control the level of rough sleeping but the sharp rise in family homelessness shows no sign of abating. The cost of providing temporary accommodation for these families is eye-watering. When super-imposed on these long-term issues, the cost-of-living crisis creates a perfect storm.
“Our number one ‘ask’ is for the Government to re-create the successful Supporting People programme that it abandoned despite weighty evidence of the dire consequences that this disastrous decision would have. It is heart breaking to see that warnings given as long ago as 2010 continue to be validated.
“This crucial step should form part of a joined-up national strategy on homelessness and rough sleeping that would also include new homes, the refurbishment of existing ones and the specialist wraparound support that some people need to live successfully in the community.
“An end to the counter-productive policy of withholding benefits and employment rights from some foreign nationals would also be more than welcome. In the meantime, despite the cost and other pressures, Framework will sustain its programmes of housing, health, support and employment interventions and enhance them where we have the resources to do so.”
Councillor Toby Neal, Portfolio Holder for Housing at Nottingham City Council, explained that while homelessness exists in many larger cities across the country, the problem is “exacerbated here by high levels of deprivation combined with lower levels of household income, which can severely restrict people’s housing options”.
He went on and said: “We recognise that there are higher numbers of people in Nottingham experiencing homelessness and are working hard to address the issue.
The situation is similar in many larger cities across the country but is exacerbated here by high levels of deprivation combined with lower levels of household income, which can severely restrict people’s ability.
People become homeless for lots of different reasons – there are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty – and unemployment; and life events which push people into homelessness.
Others are forced into homelessness when they leave prison, care, or the army with no home to go to and many women experiencing homelessness have escaped a violent or abusive relationship.
Many other people become homeless because they can no longer afford the rent.
And for many, life events like a relationship breaking down, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse put people under considerable strain.
“We see immense pressure on services for single homeless people, homeless families and those with mental health, drug or alcohol issues.”Andrew Redfern, Chief Executive of Framework
Miss Juliana Mensa, 32, a Ghanaian lady who now lives in a hostel in St. Annes said she became homeless after she has had a bout with mental health problems during the Covid-19 national lockdown.
Said Miss Mensa: “During the lockdown, I lost my job, and I was depressed. At the same time I was going through a rough patch in my relationship and everything crumbled down.
“I was devasted. Being homeless can, in turn, make many of these problems even harder to resolve. I am slowly getting my life back, but homelessness is one of the degrading experiences a human being can face.”
Black and minority ethnic households are said to be around three times likelier to become statutorily homeless than the white population.
Earlier in 2022, Inside Housing reported that households with a Black lead applicant accounted for 9.7% of the 268,560 households owed an initial prevention or relief duty in England in 2020-21, despite Black people making up only 3.5% of England’s population.