With 2016 coming to a close, many of us are heading off to enjoy the festive season. In a blog based on an article written for 24 Housing, Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, looks back at 2016 and shares his hopes for 2017.
“The year has seen three key moments for me”
Firstly, in February, new government statistics showed a 30% increase in rough sleeping across England. This was an unprecedented rise in the number of people who are facing the extreme dangers of sleeping rough.
This coincided with the publication of St Mungo’s own research which provided new evidence that an increasing number of people are stuck on the streets while struggling with poor mental health. Our research found that four in 10 rough sleepers have a mental health problem, rising to over half of rough sleepers from the UK.
As a result, St Mungo’s is calling on the Prime Minster to lead a new, ambitious strategy to stop the scandal of people sleeping rough. In October, we delivered a letter to Downing Street signed by more than 15,000 people who support our call.
The second moment was the positive news that the government is backing the Homelessness Reduction Bill. The Bill made it through its second reading in the House of Commons and is set to pass into statute next – fingers crossed!
St Mungo’s will continue to do everything we can to support the Bill to become law and to ensure the changes are fully funded by government. It has real potential to fill a gap in existing legislation that means many people get little or no support to avoid the dangers of sleeping rough.
Finally, in November, the government published the long awaited consultation on funding for supported housing.
A lot of uncertainty now faces the supported housing sector while the new funding models are agreed.
It is good news the government has suspended the Local Housing Allowance cap for supported housing tenants until the new funding regime is introduced in 2019, but it is bitterly disappointing that ministers have chosen to go ahead with the annual 1% reduction in rents from next year.
What do I hope for in 2017?
In what looks set to be another tough year for our sector with rising numbers of people in need and reducing resources, these are my hopes.
I hope that we can secure the future of supported housing so we can continue to offer the kind of high quality housing and support that’s needed.
I hope we can persuade the government to produce a national Rough Sleeping Strategy and that the Homelessness Reduction Bill is passed.
I hope we can continue to retain and inspire amazing staff, volunteers and supporters to continue to make a positive difference to the lives of thousands of people who are homeless or facing homelessness – and help empower and involve those people to rebuild their lives.
You can support us and get involved in our work – more information on how you can help is available on the St Mungo’s website.
My very best wishes to you for the holiday period and for 2017.