Community Foundation: Homelessness is hiding in plain sight in Calderdale

Emma Bolger Community Foundation and Stuart Rumney, Chief Executive of the Calderdale SmartMove
Emma Bolger Community Foundation and Stuart Rumney, Chief Executive of the Calderdale SmartMove

This month local charity Community Foundation for Calderdale talk about their research which revealed the growing numbers of homeless people in Calderdale, the Homelessness Reduction Bill and their investment of £60,000 to support local people who find themselves facing a life on the streets.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has passed the relevant stages in the House of Commons, and today it will have its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will place a duty on the local authority to help prevent the homelessness of all families and single people, regardless of priority need, who are eligible for assistance and threatened with homelessness. This duty to prevent homelessness begins on receipt of a valid section 21 notice (also known as an eviction notice).

This Bill could be good news for the growing number of people facing or becoming homeless in Calderdale, our most recent research found that over 1000 homeless people had been supported by local charities. However, without enough funding to enable councils to do so it will yield no tangible benefit for homeless people. Whilst the extra £48m announced last week will be welcomed, the true cost of the new legislation will be difficult to predict.

Analysis of the current Housing Register in Calderdale suggests that there is already a sizeable current need for affordable housing in Calderdale, with around 3,500 households currently requiring an affordable property.

Without affordable homes to live in, a path out of homelessness is less realistic, meaning people are stuck in temporary accommodation or on a waiting list for support. The Government’s current definition of affordability of up to 80% of local market rate means most affordable accommodation remain out of reach for those on low-incomes and benefits.

Single people under 34 only qualify for a shared room rate of support which on average leaves the claimant £23.95 per week short of the rent required. The removal of housing benefit for under 21s in April will also impact on the youngest claimants.

The imminent benefit caps which limit support for families including the amount of Housing benefit, Universal Credit and Tax Credits receivable will likely lead to pressure on family budgets. Households capped will find the housing benefit payment they receive, reduced while their ability to pay the rent due remains the same.

These families and individuals are often imprisoned in circumstances that leave them on the peripheries of society, with mounting arrears they end up living in hostels, squats and bed and breakfast accommodation or sofa surf with friends or family, one local charity even told us about clients who were sleeping in sheds and tents.

Over the past three years’ statutory homelessness has been on the increase with the local authority seeing a rise in numbers of accepted cases. But many people seek the support of local charities such as Calderdale SmartMove. Last year alone they supported over 350 people to obtain and maintain a private tenancy or social housing.

Since 2013 the Community Foundation have funded a winter shelter in Halifax, a hostel for homeless people which opens during the coldest winter months. It provides up to 10 beds in a men’s dormitory and 3 beds in a separate ladies’ room. Last year 42 people used the service, 39 of whom were moved in to safe accommodation.

The Community Foundation believe that everyone deserves a safe place to call home; a home provides roots, identity, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing. Homelessness is about the loss of all of this. This year the Community Foundation for Calderdale launched our Vital Signs funding and housing and homelessness has been chosen as a priority for funding.

We have invested £60,000 of grant aid in a 3-year project with local charity Calderdale SmartMove, who provide a high quality, client-centred service assisting homeless and vulnerably housed people by securing sustainable homes and developing a variety of services that address their client’s needs.

The service also includes a very successful learning and training programmes, with classes such as Confidence with Computers, Financial Skills, Confidence with Reading and Writing, a Job Club, Pre-Tenancy Course, Safety in the Home and Volunteering Skills being offered to clients.

Stuart Rumney, Chief Executive of the Calderdale SmartMove charity said, “We at Calderdale SmartMove are delighted to have been awarded the Vital Signs grant from the Community Foundation.

Homelessness is growing and is a serious issue across the country, and as the Vital Signs research demonstrated the plight of the hidden homeless, that sleep on friend’s sofas, in cars and the like. As of today we have 61 individuals and families on our waiting list, the monies provided by the Community Foundation will enable us to assist a further 12 people into accommodational any one time and generally speed up the time spent on our considerable waiting list.

Potentially over the next three years we can reach another 200 people over the course of the grant. A massive thank you on behalf of vulnerable people across Calderdale”.

If you or your business would like to help local people back into a home and change a life forever, please do contact us. There are many ways to help from donating online to our 25 fund to setting up a named fund of your own with us. We will help you find the solution that works best for you. Online at www.cffc.co.uk or call 01422349700