Eastbourne Citizens Advice (CA) is calling for a hostel service to help homeless people in town.
In a major report released this week, the charity explores the causes of homelessness, the challenges people face getting back into stable accommodation, and recommends a number of ways to tackle the issue which is becoming more and more prolific.
A year in the making, the detailed report concludes the town needs a hostel to support people as it is becoming ‘increasingly easy to become homeless’.
Alan Bruzon, CEO of Eastbourne CA, said, “In the past few years, street homelessness has become increasingly visible in Eastbourne town centre, with people huddled in shop doorways, wrapped in sleeping bags, sometimes asking for help from passers by but other times seemingly fast asleep. During the winter, when the weather gets colder it is hard to imagine how it would feel to spend your days that way.
“But to the general public, seeing homeless people on the streets can be alarming. They wonder why this is still going on in 2018 in the UK and they wonder how they can help.
“They wonder why it is that no one appears to be doing anything about it. They read headlines which tell them that homeless people aren’t genuine and beggars live in comfortable houses and their sympathy changes. They see people drinking or causing trouble in the town centre and start to think homeless people cause their own problems or choose to live that way. The picture becomes unclear.”
The report has contributions from 20 local agencies and aims to explain why homelessness has risen in recent years.
Alan Bruzon continued, “We also wanted to produce a better picture of the varying and complex reasons which can cause people to become homeless so this can be better understood. In part this is to counter the misinformation from certain sources and talk to homeless people and those who work with them.”
While John Mayes, of Eastbourne CA, said one of the biggest challenges in getting people housed is affordability, as rents are significantly higher than the local housing allowance. He also called for hostels as a partial solution to rough sleeping.
The main causes of homelessness, it found, are relationship breakdown, changes to the benefits system, debt, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol problems, mental ill-health, and an individual’s lack of financial capability. There has been an increase in women fleeing from domestic abuse facing homelessness, it said.
It also calls for:
• ‘Properly funded’ day care centres which build on the work of the Salvation Army and Matthew 25 Mission.
• To maximize the use of services for homeless people – somewhere to wash, do laundry, have internet access, and access to phones.
• Temporary housing options which will work for vulnerable single people, including people with drug and alcohol problems.
• A ‘housing first’ approach. More information on the Housing First England website
• Homelessness prevention work, to enable people to stay in their own home.
• More private landlords to take on benefit claimants.
• To remove the barriers people face accessing private rented accommodation – including having to have guarantors, deposits, rent in advance, high fees.
• Supported housing options for people at major transition points such as those leaving mental health institutions or leaving prison.
• More awareness of the causes of homelessness, the amazing amount of work being done by local agencies and the barriers people face getting back into housing.
• To explore the use of empty properties in Eastbourne.
• People to be able to learn ‘life skills’ such as budgeting and managing a tenancy – especially young people.
The study found that more than half of homeless people using local agencies were originally from Eastbourne and a high proportion had no previous connection with the town. The majority were men but there had been an increase in women seeking help. Women can be more vulnerable when homeless and at greater risk of exploitation, it said.
The report also calls for the issue to be faced at a national level. It says we need more afforable housing, benefit rates to equal rent costs, more security for tenants, and a benefits system which ‘supports people at their time of greatest need’ and ‘doesn’t adversely affect people’s housing’.
If you are facing homelessness or know someone who is you can contact a number of agencies in Eastbourne. They include:
• Citizens Advice Eastbourne, 8 St Leonards Road, 03444 111444
• BHT Eastbourne Advice, 8 St Leonards Road, 01323 642615
• Salvation Army, Eastbourne Citadel, 141 Langney Road, 01323 640382
• The Matthew 25 Mission, Brodie Hall/Christ Church Seaside, 01323 726960
• Eastbourne Borough Council, 1 Grove Road, 01323 410000
What can you do to help someone who is street homeless?
The report says you can give them money but if you are unsure about this you can buy them a hot drink or some food. It says, “Ask them first if this is a gesture that would be welcomed – sometimes it’s not. Don’t be offended if they say no and don’t feel bullied into giving them money instead.”
You can also donate directly to a local charity who gives help to the homeless (see the above list), donate money or goods to a charity shop or local agency, or volunteer with one of the local charities.
Use Streetlink.org.uk to inform local services.
Citizens Advice Eastbourne has been shortlisted for an award at the Citizens Advice annual conference in October for best campaign. The nomination comes for their work in agreeing a Minimum Standard for Temporary Accommodation with Eastbourne Borough Council.
To read the charity’s full report into homelessness, visit www.eastbournecab.co.uk