The review is an overview of the homeless situation across England and aims to provide a perspective around the up to date evidence base and to support action to prevent and reduce homelessness.
The document is a really useful wide angle view of the current issue and examines key themes such as;
- Definitions of homelessness
- National profile of people who street beg and/or street sleep
- What factors may be driving increases in homelessness?
- Why do people street beg and/or street sleep?
More importantly the document reviews what works to prevent/ reduce street begging and rough sleeping and examines a matter close to our hearts here at Higher Learning; the impact of enforcement on street begging/street sleeping.
The review does not claim to be the definitive catch all guide to end homelessness but instead acts as a really useful first point of call and sense checking document (particularly for local authorities).
It unsurprisingly points to integrated and multi-agency working as a vital component to tackling the issue and advises that the most effective approach is for services to work together to provide support and seamless transitions for those leaving prisons and acute settings with the aim of preventing those with vulnerabilities falling through the gaps and into rough sleeping. None of this is groundbreaking innovation and for those of us with a long enough memory and who can remember the halcyon days of functional prisons and probation services, properly funded substance misuse services with prison liaison workers and designated vulnerable peoples teams it will all sound fairly familiar.
Thankfully it also finds (and recommends) that prevention in all its forms (and not enforcement!) is essential – and that focusing on the individual at the point of homelessness is often too late.
The review captures the voice of many out in the front line and their evident frustrations, particularly around enforcement actions such as Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs);
“PSPOs don’t alleviate hardship on any level. They are blunt instruments which fast-track so-called ‘offenders’ into the criminal justice system…handing hefty fines to homeless people … is obviously absurd, counterproductive and downright cruel”
It is made clear that the using of punitive powers only further serves to marginalise and criminalise the homeless and that there is no evidence hat banning people from geographical areas or fining individuals in any way solves the underlying issues that lead to and contribute homelessness or ‘street begging’.
The paper also states that vulnerable individuals are pushed further away from the services they need by PSPOs and describe enforcement as a ‘high risk strategy’ for those who were least likely to respond i.e those involved in substance misuse, a long history of street living, mental health and crime. Essentially the bulk of the cohort.
The full document can be found HERE