Monday 15 July 2019

Council spending cuts are impacting homeless men and women

Anthony Dover cropped

Over the past decade, local councils have experienced huge budget cuts, during which time the number of rough sleepers has soared.

£5bn less has been spent on helping individual homeless men and women compared with what would have been spent if funding had continued at 2008/9 levels. These massive cuts mean there is now very little help for individuals at risk of losing their homes, and far fewer support services for those that have. This includes a 30% reduction in bed spaces for homeless men and women in places such as hostels.

The introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act last year requires local authorities to offer support to anyone who presents as homeless, but councils are having to meet this obligation with increasingly limited funds. This means more and more homeless people are not receiving the support they need, and many have no choice but to sleep on the streets.

Those who are forced to sleep rough are at enormous risk. Last year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that over 12 months in 2017/18 more than 600 people died in England and Wales, either on the streets or while homeless. These people were frequently subjected to abuse, exposed to extremes of heat and cold and died from serious illnesses, addictions or even suicide.

Emmaus must do more to help homeless men and women who have nowhere else to turn. We cannot abandon people in crisis, especially when we know we have an approach that works – but we urgently need your help today

Anthony found himself homeless in 2017 when a series of events turned his life upside down. He was in his late 40s when he lost his job, experienced a bereavement and broke-up with his partner, all in a short space of time.

When he had to leave his home, Anthony approached his local council in the hope that they would be able to re-house him. They registered Anthony as homeless but he went straight to the bottom of the housing list because he was an adult, was relatively fit and had no significant mental health issues. In short, he was on his own.

Anthony was referred to a local accommodation project for homeless people but they already had a 12 month waiting list. So he relied on whatever help he could find; the gift of a sleeping bag and, if he was lucky, a shower or hot meal at a day centre. Most nights he bedded down in a shop doorway where CCTV cameras made him feel slightly less vulnerable.

Months went by and Anthony couldn’t see any way out of his situation. He feared that one day he might be found dead on the streets. So when he was eventually offered a place at Emmaus Dover, he knew it was a unique opportunity to change his life and he grasped it with both hands.

While homeless, Anthony was using alcohol to numb his feelings of loneliness and despair, but with help from his Emmaus support worker, and through his own determination, he hasn’t had a drink for the past year.

Anthony has also been making a fantastic contribution to his community by growing flowers and vegetables in the gardens. The vegetables are used to make nutritious meals for companions, while the flowers and any surplus produce is sold to help support the community.

The Emmaus Companion Training Fund has enabled Anthony to take courses which he feels are ‘worth their weight in gold’. They are giving him important skills that he can use to gain long-term employment in the construction industry or elsewhere, as he moves on from Emmaus.

In Anthony’s own words: “Emmaus came up trumps where other organisations I turned to had failed. It helped me put the brakes on life; to stop it hurtling further downhill. It has also given me the tools to get my life going again.”

Right now, thousands of homeless men and women are in the same situation as Anthony. That’s why we urgently need your donation today.

Any gift you can send will help us be there when people like Anthony need us most. Your donation will give people a safe place to live for as long as they need it so they can pause, regroup and rebuild their lives. You will provide them with professional support to address their emotional or physical problems. And by giving people the opportunity to work and receive training, formerly homeless men and women like Anthony can move on in life with confidence and optimism.

Too many homeless individuals feel abandoned, that they have nowhere to turn. Help us be there for them. 

Do make a donation today if you can and send a message to people like Anthony that they are not alone.


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