Not too much to ask?

Harbour Place, in Grimsby, is a centre for rough sleepers and homeless people within North East Lincolnshire, and we’ve been working in partnership with the charity for 26 years now.

The organisation recently marked World Homeless Day by explaining why they care about homelessness and the challenges they face.

Each week we send food to the Harbour Place kitchen from our kitchen, an initiative that the catering team here at St Hugh’s are proud to be involved in.

So, to help highlight the charity’s work, here’s what they said about their mission:

“The past 18 months have brought unprecedented challenges for most of us. So many families have lost loved ones, while lockdowns and other periods of restriction have had a detrimental effect on the health, mental health, and financial circumstances for so many.

“Many of these challenges remain as the country looks to build back up and as so many try to recover ground after lost opportunities. Given all of these challenges, some may feel that homelessness should not be particularly high on the agenda, so World Homeless Day seems a good opportunity to focus on the full impact of this issue –for the individuals who are directly affected and the wider community.

“Homelessness and rough sleeping have a financial and human cost. To attach figures to what is basically a human tragedy might seem crass, but the bold truth is that it is more cost-effective for taxpayers to see homelessness eradicated than do nothing at all.

“Most recent figures available put the cost to taxpayers of homelessness at £24-£26,000 per person, with a total gross cost of more than £1-billion a year. More importantly and more harmful, of course, is the human cost – the impact on someone’s mental and physical health, the interruption or complete denial of opportunities for education, training and employment, the irreparable breakdown of family relationships… they all flow from the lack of something most of us take for granted and see as a right.

“While we don’t like to bombard people with statistics, some very simple numbers illustrate just how harmful life on the streets can be. Rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, and die 30 years younger on average, having an average life expectancy of 47 for men and 43 for women. It is very hard to communicate just how quickly someone’s health and self-esteem deteriorates once they are on the streets.

“At the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government announced its Everyone In initiative, with additional funding directed to local authorities so that all rough sleepers were allocated temporary accommodation. Some of this was in the form of rooms in hotels, but some was in the form of flats or places with social housing providers. We worked closely with North East Lincolnshire Council to assist with this process and support those individuals who were accommodated as part of Everyone In.

“Now, as we head into winter, there are genuine concerns across our sector that the progress made through Everyone In may be lost as we see numbers start to rise again.

“National charities have described the battle against rough sleeping as ‘at a precipice’, with the ‘triple whammy’ of the lifting of the eviction ban, the window down on furlough, and the withdrawal of £20 per week from Universal Credit hitting at the very worst of times. All of this is set against a background of significant increases to the cost of living – especially food and heating.

“Some people saw Everyone In as proof that homelessness could readily be ended if there was simply enough provision of accommodation. While the initiative did indeed have positive outcomes for many of our clients and demonstrated how such additional funding makes a difference, a place to live is only part of the solution. After being on the streets, most individuals need a network of support to help them succeed in their new home.

“At Harbour Place, we believe that everyone should have the right to their ‘own front door’, and that the confidence, dignity and security that brings is a great starting point for resolving other issues. In the words of a Harbour Place client who recently moved into accommodation, ‘That front door gives me an identity and I can’t tell you how good that feels’. Not too much to ask, is it?”

For more information and for volunteering opportunities at Harbour Place, visit  www.harbourplacegrimsby.org.uk

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