Do we need more emergency winter housing?
By Mark Goodrich
The short answer to this question is "yes". Homeless people are invisible in Sevenoaks, except to each other. They say that most nights there are twenty sleeping in our parks, fields and woodland. Winter is hard for them.
There should be sufficient winter housing available so that nobody has to sleep rough. But emergency housing is putting a sticking plaster on the deep wound of homelessness in Britain.
Rather than struggling to house people in emergency shelters every time winter arrives, we need to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness. While there are many different reasons why people end up on the streets, there is one approach which has been shown to work.
"Housing First", has been piloted in US cities and has now been rolled out across the whole of Finland. The model involves providing proper supported accommodation to all homeless people and then working on the issues that caused them to end up on the street. This works much better than rather trying to solve people's problems as a condition of allowing them a home Because of this, and decent provision of social housing, Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling rather than rising.
In Britain, national and local government are failing badly on this. According to KCC statistics, Sevenoaks added exactly net zero affordable housing units in 2018 and future plans look equally poor. National government carries on with the same failed policies.
There are some positive signs in other parts of Britain. For example, Liverpool and Manchester are both starting to design policies like "Housing First". We can prevent nearly all homelessness . It needs a new approach and political will, which is sadly lacking.