The news that Brighton and Hove City Council has been awarded £1.25 million to tackle the homelessness crisis in the City is great news. The City Council, under the leadership of Cllr Clare Moonan has done very well to get such a large proportion of the £50 million being allocated nationwide. It is a further testament to the work being done behind the scenes and the strength of the partnerships in place to tackle rough sleeping.
Of course it will make a difference for many individuals, and the funding will allow for innovation and the development of different services, but the problem of rough sleeping in our City will persist. The causes of homelessness, especially rough sleeping, are complex and deep routed, and will not be solved by what someone once described as ‘soundbite funding’. (Governments of all colours engage in such funding – high profile announcements with comparatively modest amounts, giving the illusion of making a fundamental impact on a problem that has attracted public interest).
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, said in announcing the funding: “In the run up to Christmas, images of soup kitchens and hostels remind us of the vital lifeline provided by charities and local services to those facing a night on the streets.”
She is right that there are such images in the run up to Christmas, and I have been around long enough to know that the timing of this announcement is aimed as much at responding to heightened concern about rough sleeping as it is about a genuine concern about rough sleeping.
Rough sleeping is not an issue just at Christmas. At Easter, mid summer and throughout the year the City Council, BHT, the Clock Tower Sanctuary, Off the Fence, St Mungo’s and our other partners will be working to combat rough sleeping.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We’re making this £50 million funding available across the country this Christmas for ambitious programmes to prevent homelessness in the first place, so that by next year many more people will have been helped to get their lives back on track.”
The funding will help prevent some homelessness and will help some to “get their lives back on track”. But the reality is that the impact of other government policies will do little to alleviate the housing and homelessness crisis and will cost hundreds of millions, dwarfing the £50 million announced this week.
The proof of the pudding is well known. By this time next year will there be a reduction in the number of street homeless people in Brighton and Hove and in other cities? By this time next year will there be fewer than the 1,800 children in temporary and emergency accommodation in the the City? By this time next year will there be fewer than the 24,000 on the City Council’s housing waiting list? By this time next year will this announcement be seen as little more than soundbite funding?