Homelessness: it’s time to understand the problem and develop solutions that will work

In the week the main political parties officially publish their manifestos, Birmingham Changing Futures Together is calling on them to stop proposing insufficient, ineffective solutions to the problem of homelessness. 

“The political parties are all offering solutions to homelessness based on a silo understanding of the problem,” explained Natalie Allen, Programmes Director of Birmingham Changing Futures Together.  “The targets on new housing and access to homes not hostels are obviously to be welcomed but, even if they are met, they won’t solve the problem alone.

“In contrast the Housing First approach, which recognises temporary and emergency accommodation is not working for the most entrenched rough sleepers and argues the first thing every homeless person needs is their own front door, is to be welcomed. 

“We must remember the needs of rough sleepers are multiple and interconnected.  For long-term sustainable change, as soon as people have a roof over their head, support to address their other needs is essential.  Without this, they will find themselves in a revolving door of homelessness.

“Homelessness is frequently the consequence of a complex mix of mental health problems, often intertwined with substance misuse and a history of offending behaviour. 

“We know the enforced removal of rough sleepers from Birmingham’s streets is being discussed, but the evidence says it does not solve the problem; it just forces it underground.

“We thought this had been accepted as an ineffective approach so are extremely concerned it may be gaining traction, with the blame for homelessness again being put firmly on each individual’s vulnerable shoulders. 

“To solve the problem of homelessness and rough sleeping our politicians, including our newly elected Metro Mayor Andy Street, need to understand and address the complexities underlying homelessness.  Sweeping it under the carpet through enforced removal is a cruel and pointless approach that will only make it worse and cost more in the long run.”

Birmingham Changing Futures Together improves the effectiveness of service provision to those with multiple and complex needs – homelessness, substance misuse, offending behaviour and mental ill health.   Bringing together organisations specialist in these areas, Birmingham Changing Futures Together is identifying and sharing best practice and establishing new approaches.

It operates the No Wrong Door Network, a group of organisations working together to ensure service users, with at least two of the four complex needs (homelessness, substance misuse, offending and mental health) can have access to a whole system of support through one referral to the network.

It is also responsible for the Lead Worker and Peer Mentor service.  Peer Mentors draw on their lived experience to connect to the client.  Honest and open about their own life experiences, they inspire the same in the client, proving, by their very existence, that change is possible.