9th July 2019
You never really understand the severity of homelessness until you look out for it
During my approximate 10 minute walk from Birmingham New Street to work, I often cross at least 8 homeless people sleeping rough on the streets, but how many of us stop think what their story may be and whether there is a way we can support them?
In 2018, the total prison population stood at 83,618 in UK prisons, 79,749 being men and 3,869 being women. On average, approximately 66,000 individuals leave prison each year and begin the cycle of resettling back into the community. Looking at the figures, in 2017, 15% of men and 13% of women who were leaving prison listed their accommodation status as ‘no fixed abode’ therefore leaving them in a vulnerable situation and at possible risk of crisis point. 23% of people accessing homeless accommodation projects have had recent contact with the criminal justice system. The lack of support networks and robust resettlement planning often puts prison leavers in a situation where it may expose them to addictions previously held prior to entering the system, and the lack of guidance to securing financial funds, which can enable them to secure housing as well as employment.
Research by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) showed that 79% of those who were previously homeless went on to be convicted in the first year after being released. What causes them to re-offend though?
Is it stealing for money? Or Food?
Or is it breaking a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) Ban?
There are many factors…
PSPO’s are part of the new Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) legislation which was introduced nationally in October 2014. This new order provides the Police with additional powers across a defined geographical area to tackle a wide range of anti-social behaviours, they are intended to prevent specific acts which would not otherwise be criminal offences, such as; Swearing in a public place, noise nuisance, littering, banning under 18’s from a town centre after a certain time or even rough sleeping. Now, if individuals who are homeless, are unable to secure somewhere to stay, but are also unable to sleep on the streets, what happens to them? Where would they go? – This is where the issue arises.
Did you watch the Channel 5 Programme, ‘Rich Kids go Homeless’? There was an episode where the young girl tried to get a job, even at a car wash just to gain some funds to buy some food and get a hostel for the night. The blockage that she came up against was that, because she did not have a place of residence, she was unable to work due to the UK’s compliance regulations. After speaking with passers-by the female was able to raise the funds for a room in a hostel, and after walking across London to find a Hostel, she was unable to get a room for the night due to not having a passport. So this is the reality of a never ending cycle that homeless individuals are facing within the UK. So whether the individual returns to their addictions, are caught stealing or even found to be breaking a PSPO Ban, this repeats the whole re-offending cycle. In the period of April to June 2017, the overall prove re-offending rate was 29.8%. Adults who served custodial sentences of less than 12 months had a proven re-offending rate of 64.4%, an increase of 0.6 percentage points from the same quarter in the previous year.
How can we help?
I recently met with an organisation where we discussed that there was a shortage of volunteers within the service to provide outreach services, this made me realise that charities rely on donations and volunteers to assist them with supporting vulnerable individuals. Imagine if each organisation had a full team of volunteers who could spare some free time reaching out to the individuals and signposting them to the right organisations and the charities night shelters, to receive the help and support they require, this can assist with reducing the re-offending rate, because we can identify those who require the support.
I have signed up as a volunteer, can you spare some time?