We can all do more to help tackle homelessness

While the government has pledged to build 30,000 social homes a year, providing housing alone will not prevent the risk of homelessness for individuals who have complex issues.

Cry Homeless Beggar Woman Poverty Hunger

It’s easy to forget (or not even be aware of the fact) that there are people who will still struggle to sustain a tenancy, even if a home can be offered to them in good faith.

We often associate homelessness with certain demographics – those who have lost their jobs or those who have problems with addictions for example.

However, the issue is much broader than this and unfortunately there are multiple possible causes of homelessness which each need to be carefully managed and understood.

There are young people leaving care who have little or no support, families evicted due to increases in rent, or those affected by spiralling debts or changes to benefits payments.

Many people face complex issues which need to be challenged and addressed, otherwise they risk becoming homeless again and again.

The reality is that many people are only a pay-packet away from poverty.

In a world of distractions and instant gratification, it’s a realisation that many fail to understand.

People don’t necessarily have one major life event that leads them to become homeless; it can be a consequence of numerous factors.

I work for a construction firm which takes great pride in building new homes and refurbishing existing properties for the UK’s social housing sector. As part of its core work, social value is also taken very seriously and it’s my role to lead on supporting good causes and positive outcomes, across the North.

Over the Christmas period, our organisation raised thousands of pounds for charities which help to accommodate homeless individuals and keep them off the streets.

Obviously, this was very much appreciated by those charities. It was also important for my colleagues who had the opportunity to give something back on behalf of the communities in which they work.

Yet as much as it’s important to celebrate these efforts, it’s equally important that we don’t fall into the trap of only delivering this kind of activity on special occasions.

And as a society, it’s arguably more important that we seek to collectively understand the root causes of homelessness, as opposed to just donating to homelessness charities without considering preventative measures.

Factors such as mental illness, poor education and lack of employment opportunities are all key contributors to homelessness.

By also supporting the charities and organisations which are actively working with groups and individuals in these spaces, we can be much more effective in the long-term.

Essentially, we need to have more joined up thinking and to focus more on preventative methods.

As part of my day job, I work closely with an organisation called Recycling Lives – a waste management company.

They do a lot of work with ex-offenders and other vulnerable groups.

They work with individuals while they are serving time in prison, helping them to find work and to make plans for resettling back into the community once they are released.

What has struck me about working with Recycling Lives is that very much like my own organisation, social value is the very lifeblood of their work.

It’s always at the top of their agenda and is seen as a key part of the business model.

For example, they have a hostel attached to their main building in Preston, and they have a food distribution service which donates food to local foodbanks, it’s the best charity of its kind that I’ve seen.

We can learn from organisations like these.

While it is unrealistic to think that providing more housing or donating to charity alone can solve the problems of homelessness, it is realistic for organisations like ours to educate their employees and their wider networks of suppliers, stakeholders and clients, on the many complexities of homelessness.

Our sector also needs to harness further direct approaches to tackle the issue, such as helping to rehabilitate homeless people and ex-offenders by offering employment or apprenticeship opportunities.

Yes, we should still continue to give to those who are already homeless, but we should remind ourselves frequently that this only helps in the short term. A temporary roof over the head, or support with paying for meals doesn’t tackle the root cause.

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