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The Crisis Blog: conversations on matters related to homelessness.

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Alex Kennedy @af_kennedy Campaigns Manager

Hidden in plain sight?

One of the tragedies of being street homeless is that you can be in plain view of everyone but completely ignored. Our Turned Away research shows it is not just passers-by who can ignore homeless people, it is also the services that should be there for those in need. In 50 of the 87 visits that mystery shoppers made to test council homelessness services in England they were given little or no help.

That’s why we have launched the No One Turned Away campaign, calling for a review of the help that single homeless people in England receive under the law. Already the petition in support of the campaign has over 11,000 signatures.

The fact that thousands of people with nowhere to sleep get turned away from help is appalling. But perhaps worse is the fact that some homeless people have learned to expect it. People like Tony, and others who have been homeless and who have got in touch since we launched the campaign, explain what happened when they were denied help. The consequence is that 29% of single homeless people who had previously approached their local authority for help say they did not do so during their most recent episode of homelessness.

All of this should be of no surprise to MPs. Housing accounts for much of the constituency casework they do and some have extensive first-hand experience of helping homeless constituents. One remarked to us that “If it is this bad when the local MP is advocating for someone I shudder to think what it is like the rest of the time.”

For those who work in other frontline homelessness services the gaps in support are a daily reality. It is telling that the government’s flagship scheme to tackle rough sleeping works in part by intervening to advocate on behalf of homeless people. It often enables them to find support from councils that have previously turned them away, but surely those individual successes point to a larger failure.

And, last but not least, nor should it be a surprise to local authorities. They are aware of how many people have approach them, how many of those found to be in priority need and, of the rest, how many have had their homelessness solved through advice or assistance.

So, far from being a shocking revelation, for many people the fact that homeless people are getting treated in this way—and the consequences for them and for society—are a well-known injustice. The truth is that homeless people, like the broader issue of the help available to single homeless people, aren’t really hidden in plain sight. Too often, they are simply ignored.

 

If you want that to change, sign our petition.