Preventing a Homeless Generation…

Last week I was honoured to be receiving the Youth Award at TUC Congress 2015 but I couldn’t help think about the fact I got to stay in a nice hotel with nice clothes while outside a guy I befriended called Dave was sleeping in a torn up sleeping bag and was barely eating. I saw him get kicked, laughed at and ignored. Dave is 27, just a bit older than me and he lost his home and job through a broken relationship. Dave is trying to get a new job but is struggling considering he hasn’t been able to shower or give an address or even have access to a computer where he can write and then print his CV. It makes me even more sad to know that Dave isn’t the only one in this position, because in Brighton and in many other places I’ve visited over the last 5 years there are hundreds if not thousands more young people we see every day living on the streets with nothing.

The hotel I stayed in was great and I had breakfast included which was a buffet, so I’d wrap some of the hot food up and take it outside to give to Dave, but he wasn’t there in the mornings, so I went to give the food to anyone else that I could find which wasn’t hard in Brighton. I wondered why I couldn’t find Dave in the mornings, his bags and bits would be there but he wasn’t. I found out it was because he was trying to get on a register to have somewhere to stay and shower but it seems he wasn’t successful in the few days that I was there.

Figures on statutory homelessness released by the Department for Communities and Local Government recently show that 13,850 new households were accepted as homeless in England between 1 April and 30 June 2015 which is an increase of 5% compared to the same quarter in 2015. At the same time as these figures being released, The Guardian reported on how New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre in central London that tries to find emergency accommodation for vulnerable young people in crisis situations are now regularly giving out bus tickets to young people along with details about the best bus routes looping around the city through the night, so they can have somewhere safe to sleep.

Across the country there has been an increase in 55% of people sleeping rough since 2010. This is ridiculous, the figures we hear from the Government about unemployment decreasing and young people in education increasing can’t be that great if we’re seeing this kind of increase in people sleeping rough. In a recent report from Homelet the average rent in London is £1158 and £766 outside of London. The National Living wage is £7.85 an hour, meaning that someone living outside of London who is lucky enough to have a full time, living wage paying job would have £333 left for bills, council tax, food, clothes and anything else after paying their rent. While in London where the living wage is £9.15 an hour they would have £123 left after just their rent is paid. As we move forward the Government are increasing the minimum wage, but only for over 25’s, so I imagine we’re going to see an increase in young people sleeping rough because the next generation will find it even harder to afford a place to live. Some of the young and homeless are still in education, going to lectures after a quick shower in the university or college gym and then finding a library to study then going to a shelter to get a bed or a bus ticket to ride a night bus until the morning where the shelters are giving out cereal.

This is the age in which we live, how can we be proud of our nation while our young cannot afford the simplicities of a good start to life?

As I type this blog, there are 5 activists who occupied the old Bank of England Building in Liverpool in protest against the lack of support for the homeless who are in court appealing their sentences. Our own police and courts that our taxes pay for are criminalising people for highlighting the lack of support to people living on the streets. It’s estimated that around £118,573 was spent policing the protest and arresting the protesters. Let me explain this, while people aren’t getting access to hostels and funds are being cut from organisations who support the homeless £118,573 of our money was spent on arresting and making criminals of 5 harmless people who just wanted to get more help for the homeless.

Last year I spent my birthday walking around Liverpool giving out lunch packs, sleeping bags and clothes to over 30 people sleeping on the streets of Liverpool. I put a call out to friends and colleagues for any donations and we received over £200 and 5 bin bags full of clothes from people in Scotland, London and across Merseyside. Let’s just say it worked out at a value of about £350. This made a massive difference and we even had stuff left over at the end of the day which I gave to one of the shelters run by some lovely nuns. We’ve got over £100K being spent on criminalising people for highlighting that we need to do more for people sleeping rough?

So let’s look at the future, housing benefits are being cut for 18-21 year olds, the new minimum wage will only be for over 25’s and the Government aren’t doing enough to build affordable (for minimum wage workers) housing. What hope do the under 16’s of today have? Their EMA has been scrapped and travel costs are set to increase while University fees are at their highest.

Housing for allWe can work on preventing this, in line with the TUC Young Workers’ campaign, CWU this week have launched #Housing4All – a campaign that highlights a humanitarian issue for our society which we need to make sure there is a political will to change.

Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North has a Bill going through Parliament on 16th October for its second reading called The Homes (Fit For Human Habitation) Bill’ and we need to make sure we get some support behind it, so you can contact your MP and tell them to make sure they’re in Parliament to vote it through. You can do this by clicking here to find your MP and get their contact details.

Also you can sign the TUC Young Workers’ Housing Charter where unions across the country are joining up to call for urgent action by the government to address the housing crisis facing young people today and to strengthen tenants’ rights and conditions by making private renting more affordable, secure and decent. When you get in contact with your MP, get them to sign it as well!

3 years ago CWU Youth ran a survey to understand the housing situation for people across the UK and this gave a clear sign that there were massive problems and bigger ones to come, which we are seeing happen now. CWU Youth have launched a new survey to see how things have changed and what can be done to improve this and we need to see to what extent the national pattern of increasingdependence on rented accommodation, especially for younger workers, is reflected in our members. Click here to take part in the survey and help create a picture of how this housing crisis is causing more problems than the Government like to acknowledge.

These are the ways we can start to make a difference in the prevention of more young people ending up living on the streets with no hope for their future. At the same time, we must continue to donate where we can to local homeless shelters and support them in any fundraising events or volunteering opportunities. Don’t give up your fight to make a difference for this generation and future generations.

Dan Lewis
Youth Officer
Bootle Financial Services Branch
Follow Dan on Twitter: @Think_Become