COLUMN: Work to do to reduce local homelessness

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There has been some welcome discussion of homelessness and rough sleeping in Mansfield recently. Most of us have witnessed the visible rise in rough sleeping in the district, and people are rightly concerned.

However, this isn’t just a local problem. Aacross the country, the number of rough sleepers has risen by 133 per cent since 2010, and by 51 per cent in the last two years.

As a district councillor I am sadly often contacted by residents who are at risk of homelessness after their private landlord has decided to end their tenancy, often at just a month’s notice.

To prevent homelessness we certainly do need more secure tenancy rules, and more affordable housing, but that is only part of the picture. The reasons why people become homeless are complex and varied, and each individual story is different, but we know that there are some particular issues which can lead to people being at greater risk of becoming homeless. Care leavers, people with mental health problems, people who have been in prison, those with drug and alcohol problems and armed forces veterans are all over represented among rough sleepers.

However, what is perhaps less widely recognised, is that childhood poverty is the factor which is most directly linked to homelessness in young adulthood. In Mansfield, 29 per cent of children live in poverty after housing costs have been accounted for, and this must be addressed.

The charity Crisis has recently presented research which shows that close to 400,000 households could be homeless within 25 years if Government policies are not changed. Investment in affordable housing is needed, as well as a commitment to tackling childhood poverty.

Vital support services and mental health services for young people and adults can also help prevent homelessness, but these have been badly affected by government cuts. It’s vital to ensure all these parts of the jigsaw are in place if there is a real drive to reduce homelessness in Mansfield.