3 ideas for a city that wants to end homelessness

This summer Newcastle City Council and Crisis announced their ambition to make Newcastle “the first city to end homelessness within the next 10 years.” 

How much can be achieved at the city level? Here are 3 ideas for a city level approach to ending homelessness. 

  1. Prevention

No First night out

Many people who end up sleeping rough have previously tried and failed to get help with their housing. Research in Tower Hamlets found that taking a different approach to assessing people’s initial claims for help could significantly reduce the number of people who go on to sleep rough. 

Local rents?

Ant Beach argues that it’s possible to increase the number of houses in a city and that this would in turn reduce rents. Given that city government has little to no power to change benefit levels, wages or security of tenure, it’s worth considering whether an approach that reduces rents might reduce homelessness.

  1. Emergency responses

A significant percentage of people who end up sleeping rough do not qualify for various forms of public assistance. For example, they may be classified as having “no recourse to public funds”. . They may not even be able to access emergency accommodation or day services. They might be offered ‘reconnection’ to the country in which they were born, but they might not take up this offer

While a city can’t change the rules on who is entitled to housing benefit, there could be a role here either coordinating faith and charitable emergency responses or by supplementing the current meagre government provision.

  1. Rehousing

It is widely acknowledged that the most effective support for people who are sleeping rough is to quickly find them secure housing. However, so-called ‘housing first’ models rely on landlords being willing to allocate houses. This is not always the case. 

While a city can’t change the amount of grant they get to build new social housing, there could be a role in either designing a programme to convince private landlords to take on people through a ‘housing first’ programme or to allocate social housing.

While fundamentals around benefits, social housing grant, funding for preventative and responsive homelessness services are the domain of national government, determined action at the level of the city could play a significant part in ending homelessness. 

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