As most of Birmingham’s population celebrates the festive season, the number of people in priority need of housing is growing and too often they are choosing the streets ahead of hostels.
“For vulnerable people some hostels can be dangerous places,” said Natalie Allen, Programmes Director of Birmingham Changing Futures Together. “Faced, for example, with the threat of a perpetrator of abuse or, for those recovering from substance abuse, close contact with drug or alcohol users, individuals often turn their back on hostels, opting instead for the streets.”
With a history of an abusive childhood, multiple suicide attempts and violent and destructive relationships that left her in hospital Sally was addicted to alcohol and drugs. Perhaps her lowest moment was sitting alone in someone else’s flat on Christmas Day 2009 drinking Frosty Jack, a cheap cider. But when later moved to a hostel Sally was still surrounded by fellow addicts living similarly chaotic lives. The road to recovery was very hard to find.
There is almost never just one cause for people’s homelessness. One of the most common causes is eviction. Birmingham is one of the most expensive places to rent in the country; housing costs take up 47%1 of household incomes compared to 49%1 in London. In this context it is unsurprising the city is a repossession hotspot; 1 in 69 households face the threat of losing their home versus 1 in 108 in England1. Domestic abuse and friends and family no longer being able to accommodate individuals are also significant causes1.
Natalie continued: “The City Council’s consultation on its homelessness strategy ends on 18 January 2017 and in the context of an ongoing squeeze on budgets, it is likely more will have to be done with less.
“If people are to turn their lives around and become valuable contributors to society, something has to change. Using an evidence-based approach that sees the individual as a person with multiple, interlinked needs, the Birmingham Changing Futures Together programme is working collaboratively with service providers to make a practical, tangible difference.”
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Birmingham Changing Futures Together is a £10 million programme over eight years. With the involvement of Experts by Experience, people like Sally with lived experience of multiple needs, it is identifying and sharing best practice throughout the sector.
“This approach means those running organisations tackling homelessness and all the interlinked issues can become more effective by accessing evidence-based ‘best practice’ and introduce positive change without the potentially high cost of investment,” continued Natalie.
“By providing a link between organisations we are also giving frontline workers a connection with like-minded colleagues as well as training and development opportunities.”
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1 Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Homelessness Summit, October 2016