A moment in time to do things better

Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s ambassador for addressing rough sleeping and homelessness, talks about tackling homelessness.

Picture of Cllr Sharon ThompsonHomelessness is increasing nationally and is an issue that impacts upon us all.  The visible sign of homelessness is rough sleeping and I do not need to tell you about the impact that this has upon the health of the individuals themselves as well as the wider impacts on communities, community safety and business.  But let me share with you a few facts-

  • The average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 47 compared to the UK average of 81
  • 6 in every 100 of the homeless population will have a job, compared to 70 for the general population
  • 72 in every 100 of the homeless population will have mental health issues compared to 30 for the general population
  • 56 in every 100 of the homeless population will have long term physical health needs compared to 29 for the general population
  • 26 in every 100 of the homeless population will use drugs compared to 8 for the general population
  • There is an increased likelihood that they will be involved in street drinking, taking NPS, prostitution or begging.
  • The average cost of an A and E visit is £147. 4 out of 10 experiencing homelessness will have used A and E in the last 6 months
  • £1,668 is the average cost of arrest. 7 out of 10 homeless ex-offenders are reconvicted within a year
  • £26,000 is the estimated average cost of a homeless person to the public purse each year

Not having a home can make it harder for individuals to find a job, stay healthy and maintain relationships all of which can lead to individuals being trapped in a cycle of homelessness.

Homelessness in Birmingham is a priority and I have been appointed as the Homeless Ambassador to ensure that I am championing the issues related to homelessness and to ensure that everything is being done to address the growing issue of homelessness, not just within Birmingham City Council but with our partners.

We held a multi-agency  summit last year following which partners signed up to a vision where in Birmingham we will all work together to eradicate homelessness. This led to the establishment of a co-located multi-agency Street Homeless Taskforce in the summer, responding to the issues of rough sleeping and associated street activity such as begging. We have also established a Homeless Partnership Board that is developing a whole system review of homelessness through the implementation of a positive pathway.

Today, people from voluntary groups, councils and the emergency services across the West Midlands, marked World Homelessness Day by meeting in Birmingham to discuss how we can work together to design out homelessness.  We heard from some brilliant housing specialists and spent time together to look at the roles of health professionals, businesses and criminal justice agencies.

Speakers included former head of housing options for Birmingham, Jim Crawshaw – now working as a policy adviser for the government – who gave a useful talk on the national picture.  The end of assured tenancy in 2009 – which had given private tenants a degree of security – saw homelessness rise by 30% nationally and temporary accommodation increase by 64%. He also talked about the Homelessness Reduction Act – which goes live in April 2018 – the need to focus more on prevention and increase co-ordination.

We also heard from West Midlands Mayor Andy Street who gave the regional picture – the appalling rise in rough sleeping across the region, and spoke enthusiastically about the work already underway through the West Midlands task force and the business case for tackling homelessness. Put simply, money spent on prevention of homelessness means less money spent on tackling homelessness and its effects.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson talked about the drugs epidemic that has hit our streets and the need to rethink our approach to drugs across the region.  Every time I walk through the city centre now I see people who are clearly on Mamba, out of control and a danger to themselves, if not other people.  This is clearly having a major effect on rough sleeping in the city so it was good to hear David talking about new thinking on this.

We then heard from our own Kalvinder Kohli about the homelessness positive pathway model.  She talked passionately about breaking cycles, identifying those at risk of homelessness, strengthening prevention, supporting people and building resilience.

Last to speak was Jean Templeton who heads up St Basils and leads the West Midlands task force.  She gave a powerful overview of policy, politics and priorities, their intended, and unintended consequences and finished with a passionate plea – we have a moment in time to do things better.

We have a moment in time to do things better.

I look forward to seeing what we can all do together in the coming months.

This blog was posted on 10 October 2017

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