Homelessness can only really be tackled if people have somewhere to go
When I first told the council I was homeless I was 16. It was cold, dark and I was alone. I didn’t have any belongings, but I had been staying at friends’ houses so I was clean and hadn’t been sleeping rough. I was forced to declare myself homeless when a brick was thrown through a friend’s window by a family member, and their safety was compromised. I waited to see the housing officer in my busy London borough, but when he arrived I was quickly dismissed on the grounds that I didn’t “look homeless”. What did I need to do to look homeless enough? I asked him. Did I need to be attacked? Raped? He looked at me, in his own helpless way, and shrugged.
That was 10 years ago. Today, Bob Blackman’s homelessness reduction bill will have its second reading in parliament. The main features of the bill are to remove the “priority need” category, and the requirement of being physically homeless before you are housed. Councils will have a duty to help those at risk of homelessness 56 days in advance, and to provide them with support for a further 56 days to secure accommodation. The government has announced its support for it.