What do you do when you meet someone who is suffering from homelessness ?

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I always hear mixed responses to whether you should give homeless people money on the street. Some say it only fuels addiction. So what is the best way in your day to day life to help the homeless?

My answer was always the same “It’s your choice, but have the decency to look someone in the eye and acknowledge them.” That sounds simple, but the fact is, many people who are on the street are routinely ignored, sworn at, harassed, robbed and assaulted. Having someone look them in the eye and recognise them as a person can be very affirming.

Personally, I don’t give money frequently, but I do on occasion. Working in a big urban environment means that a walk could result in several encounters with people who are on the streets sleeping rough. I also prefer not to pull my wallet out in the middle of the street  not for fear but rather of an opportunistic thief so it will also depend if I have change in my pocket.

its really is a choice that you need to make for yourself. However, if you choose to give someone money, what that money gets spent on is no longer in your control. When I give a waiter/waitress a tip at a restaurant I don’t get to dictate that they should only buy food or pay for housing with it. The money is theirs and the spending choice is theirs.

If you’re worried about the money going to alcohol or drugs there are a few options:

Give the money to an organisation working with people experiencing homelessness.
Buy a street newspaper such as the ‘Big Issue’
Buy a small gift card – i.e. for a local coffee shop or fast food restaurant.
Use the money to donate food to a food bank.

Buying food instead of giving money is something that a lot of people ask about and it is going to come down to choice for the person on the street again. I’m the world’s pickiest eater; I would have a hard time trusting that the food someone hands me on the street is safe, edible and something I will like. Most of us like to have the ability to choose what we want to eat and when we want to eat it. Giving someone a coffee instead of cash may be your preference, but if it’s the fifth coffee they’ve been handed in 20 minutes, they may well refuse it.

One thing I hope you get from this post is its down to you but please acknowledge a homeless person because there human just like us and some of the most vulnerable people in the UK today.

Private rented sector still most common way to solve homelessness, figures show

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Less use was made of landlord incentive schemes to get people at risk of homelessness into private rented accommodation last year, but it was still the most common solution, official figures released yesterday show.

Statistics issued by the Department for communities and local government (DCLG) show in 2012/13 a total of 202,400 cases of homelessness intervention for households and individuals took place outside the current legal framework.

Under the Homelessness Act 2002, local housing authorities must have a strategy for preventing homelessness in their area. Such action plans must cover non-priority cases as well as incidents where people make themselves homeless intentionally.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of such actions were some 181,500 preventions by helping people find alternative accommodation or aid to stay in their own home.

In addition, 21,000 instances of relief support, where authorities cannot prevent homelessness and have no legal obligation to do so, made up the remaining 10% of help offered.

More than half (53%) of all help given was in the form of helping households find alternative accommodation, a 4% dip in the proportion the previous year. However, the share of help which involved helping households stay in their existing homes increased by the same proportion, from 43% in 2011/12 to 47% in 2012/13.

The most common preventative action to prevent homelessness was the use of landlord incentive schemes to secure private rented accommodation. Around 26,2000 cases, some 13% of the total were dealt with in this way, although this was a decrease of 5% compared to the 18% proportion in 2011/12.

But on posting this today on my WordPress blog, Facebook and Twitter I decided to dig a little deeper and figures show that Nine million people now pay rent to private landlords in the UK after the reckless expansion of the buy-to-let market, with too many stuck in expensive, substandard homes and desperately insecure tenancies. The sheer number of recommendations for sweeping reform in a House of Commons select committee report this week is itself testament to just how deep the problems are in this sector.

Letting agents should face far tougher rules, says the committee. The worst should be banned. Tenants need to be protected from the appalling rise in letting agency fees, with the committee proposing that adverts for properties reveal every add-on fee. Councils should have new powers to weed out rogue landlords who soak up billions from housing benefit but leave their tenants in dirty, damp and overcrowded homes.

The committee also recommends a reform of letting contracts to remove the constant threat of eviction for families forced into renting long term. The report highlighted one tenant, Carl Thomas, whose 10-year-old daughter had already moved seven times.

But two words are conspicuously absent from the long list of recommendations: rent control.
Conservatives reel in horror at the idea of rent control, which they blame for the dilapidation and collapse of the rental market in the 1960s. Landlords, unable to put up the rent, simply let their properties (and tenants) rot. A return to rent control will strangle supply, returning us to the bad old days, they warn. Yet the same people used the same economic theory to oppose minimum wage legislation – and were wrong then, too.

I would just point out and its the bedroom tax which is what I blog about a great deal that wasn’t included and the cuts to housing benefit will certain bring a big increase to the homelessness figure.

More people are sleeping on London’s streets increasing the UK homelessness situation, but they spend less time there

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For a group that tries to stay hidden, much is known about homeless people in London. The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) contains an individual record for every rough sleeper found since the late 1990s. These numbers have been causing problems for London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson pledged to end rough sleeping when he stood for office in 2008. Yet the number of people seen sleeping on the streets during a year has risen from 3,017 then to 6,437.

Cuts to local-authority services aimed at supporting those with mental health problems and drug or alcohol addiction seem to have driven more to the streets. Since the financial crisis more economic migrants from eastern Europe have been sleeping rough. Poles alone make up 10% of London’s homeless.

Yet a good deal of the increase is a statistical quirk. Better use of outreach workers since 2010 and the promotion of Street Link, a rough-sleeping hotline, means more are found. The same year saw a change in methodology. Previously only those who had actually bedded down for the night were recorded as rough sleepers. Now those preparing to do so, who are talked out of it, are included too. These changes contributed to a headline-grabbing 43% increase in a single year.

While the flow of people on to the streets seems to have increased, the stock of entrenched homeless people—the really worrying group—has swollen much less. The mayor’s No Second Night Out policy, which provides an emergency place to sleep and some help to rough sleepers, has increased the proportion of the newly homeless spending only one night on the street from 62% in 2010 to 75% in 2012. Richard Blakeway, deputy mayor for housing, points out that only 3% are seen sleeping rough in all four quarters of the year.

Most of those visiting No Second Night Out are reconnected to family, friends or services, either in Britain or abroad. Howard Sinclair, chairman of Broadway London, a homeless charity, hears rumours of a rise in homelessness in smaller towns as London becomes more assertive about refusing services to those without a local connection. The small towns to which they return have less capacity to cope. The capital may be driving some of the problem elsewhere.

Huge rise in food bank use in summer holidays as demand increases due to children and free school meals

While doing research for the making of the film I’ve slept rough, raised funds and worked with the homless and worked in the foodbanks of South East London.JL1

Food banks across Britain are being inundated with requests for emergency meals as families struggle to feed their children through the school holidays.

The Trussell Trust, which runs the country’s largest network of food banks, says this is the busiest summer it has ever experienced, with some of its branches seeing double the number of requests for emergency parcels since the start of the school holidays.

Parents whose children ordinarily receive free school lunches are among those struggling the most, as they now have to find an extra meal every day. The trust says the situation is worse than last summer because of rising food prices which despite falling slightly in the latest Government figures are more than 4 per cent higher than last year and the impact of the Coalition’s welfare changes that were launched in April.

A lag in data collection means that complete national statistics are not yet available, but snapshot figures from 18 food banks around the country show that all have seen demand rise during the summer break. In Grantham, Lincolnshire, for example, the food bank gave parcels to 219 people in July, a 61 per cent increase on the previous month. In Redcar, Teesside, the increase from June to July was 71 per cent, while Dundee’s food bank gave out 538 food parcels in July, a 43 per cent increase on June.

The free food is only given out to those whose situation is critical and who are referred to the trust by frontline workers such as doctors, social workers and Citizens Advice Bureaux

Chris Mould, executive chairman of the Trussell Trust, said: “This is the busiest summer we’ve had. If people are on low incomes and they’re struggling to cope with price increases and making ends meet, if you remove one of the supports they have – like when their children don’t get free food – they’re instantly in difficulty. One of the things that is concerning us is the increasing proportion of people coming to us because of operational failures in the welfare system. We see a lot of people who’ve had their benefit sanctioned in ways which, on the face of it, seem inappropriately punitive. We meet people who’ve had their benefits stopped because they were late for an appointment.”

In Tower Hamlets, east London, which has the highest proportion of pupils on free school meals in the country, the change is dramatic. In June it gave 111 people emergency food but by July that figure was 202, while 107 people came last week alone.

Lindsay Judge, senior policy adviser for Child Poverty Action Group, said: “It’s a national scandal that more families are being referred to food banks in the summer holidays – a time when children should be having fun and parents should be enjoying life. It shows that something has gone badly wrong with the safety net in this country as welfare reform has taken away the protection a social security system is supposed to provide.”

The number of parcels handed out at Yate and Chipping Sodbury food bank in Gloucestershire more than doubled in the first week of the summer holidays. In Salisbury, Wiltshire, the number of donations went up by a quarter from 290 in June to 359 in July, while Blackburn has seen a 58 per cent increase in demand in the last fortnight alone. In response it has had to open a special summer holiday distribution centre.

Stephen Timms, the shadow minister for employment, said: “These figures tell you a great deal about this Government. David Cameron is in denial about the scale of the hardship which food banks represent. He has given millionaires a tax cut, while thousands of parents struggling to make ends meet have had no help at all.”

Lynda Battarbee, North-west development officer for the Trussell Trust, said: “The need here has doubled. Anecdotally this does seem to be to do with welfare reform – for some, the bedroom tax and other changes have pushed them over the edge. We’ve had lots of families whose kids don’t want to leave school because they know they’ll go hungry.”

Even before the holidays started, welfare reforms were having a noticeable impact on the need for urgent help with meals. Between 1 April, when many of the benefit changes came in, and 30 June, 152,154 people received three days’ worth of emergency food, which was triple the number who needed it last year. But this surge over the last few weeks shows that for some families, the holidays have been the final straw.

A DWP spokesman said: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.”

But the Trussell Trust points out that the number of people referred due to problems with benefits has soared; eight years ago, the proportion going to their food banks for this reason was 20 per cent; now it is 52 per cent.

Landlord highlights plight of ex-soldiers

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A housing association is highlighting the issues faced by the armed forces trying to get back into civilian life through a series of exhibitions.

Town & Country Foundation, the charitable arm of the Tunbridge Wells-based Town & Country Housing Group, has also launched a website to show the difficulties faced by ex-service men.

Veterans trying to re-enter civilian life often encounter issues such as homelessness, alcohol and drug dependency, attempted suicide and unemployment, the housing association says.

The ‘Two Worlds’ project is being run as the Ministry of Defence works towards a programme to reduce force levels by 20,000 by 2017.

Jackie Sumner, head of community investment at the housing association, said: ‘We know what a big challenge the restructuring of our armed forces will be to housing associations.

‘Thousands of soldiers will be looking for homes and a way back into civvy life. But more than this they will also need help and support in making this difficult transition.’

The first of the exhibitions was held in January this year and has been on tour around the country at military related venues. At the start of next year a sculpture created by service veterans will be exhibited and in September to November next year another exhibition, Our History – families, memories and mementos of war, will be held.

The 9,000- home Town & Country Housing Association also signed up with other local organisations to an ‘armed forces community covenant’ in Tunbridge Wells last month.

The covenant aims to encourage organisations to offer support to the local armed forced community and point it in the direction of help offered by other bodies, such as the Ministry of Defence and charities.