Tackling homelessness – it’s everybody’s business

The WMCA Homelessness Task Force have shared their thoughts about why homelessness is everybody’s business. Read to find out how you can ‘Find Help’ and ‘Give Help’

To a lesser or greater extent, the cost of living crisis is affecting most of us on a daily basis with the cost of essentials like food, rent, mortgages and other housing costs showing no signs of stabilising soon.  

Some of us with fewer resources, on lower incomes, in unstable accommodation, with physical and/or mental ill-health or with no access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’ are experiencing the pressure of these increased costs in ways that put our lives into crisis. For some people, this crisis will sadly lead to losing their homes and facing the ultimate exclusion that is homelessness.  

At the last annual snapshot count, there were 88 people found to be sleeping rough on a single night in the West Midlands Combined Authority area. The number of people who end up sleeping on the streets may not be huge but one person having to sleep on the streets is one person too many, and this is only part of the story.

The reality of homelessness is much broader and there are other people across our region who are experiencing the many hidden forms of homelessness that are harder to see and measure, including sofa surfing and sleeping in cars or other places not designed to be a home. Adding to this complex story are the 5,000+ families, couples and single people in the region living in temporary accommodation – they have a roof over their heads, but they are essentially homeless.

Imagine trying to hold down your job, look after your family, keep your relationships going, as well as looking after your own basic needs when you don’t have a home or even a safe space of your own.

The number of us approaching our local councils for help to avoid homelessness is rising week by week. The cost of living crisis is likely to mean these numbers increase over the coming months and into the winter.

Even in these challenging times, whether we are in a safe and secure place or at risk of losing our home, there are some key actions that we can take to help each other and ourselves.

Access to good information, advice and help before things become a crisis is one of the ways that people can take back control and manage some of the worst impacts of the current complex situation we are all trying to navigate.  It may be that we have no idea where to start, either to help others find advice or to find it for ourselves and now locally, there is a resource that can help.

Street Support West Midlands is an online platform that can help people at risk of homelessness find some of the critical information and advice that could help avoid or end the ultimate exclusion of homelessness. 

If you are not directly affected by the risk of homelessness, you may well know people in your workplace, social networks and community who are at risk as they battle to find a way through the messy business of making ends meet on a day-by-day basis.  They probably won’t be talking to you about it because there is a lot of stigma attached to being homeless, which is partly why people only seek help when their crisis has reached its peak.

If people we know aren’t talking about the crisis they may be facing, what can we do?  On a practical level, not much until they do talk about it, but something simple you can do now is to share the link to Street Support West Midlands with your friends, family and colleagues. Why not pop the link into your social media feeds and help make it OK to talk about homelessness. 

If you are directly affected and worried that you might be at risk of losing your home or experiencing any form of homelessness, then you might benefit from some of the information and links on the Street Support website.

Homelessness is everybody’s business and whilst the vast majority of us will thankfully never have to deal with losing our homes, the people who are at risk might well be people you know or see every day. 

Knowledge is power, and good quality reliable advice and information can make a huge difference and help us all to avoid or at least manage a crisis better.  Getting help early makes a huge difference; we just need to know what help is out there and how to find it – Street Support West Midlands.