What we heard
Homelessness can affect anyone. We can at any time fall into homelessness due to a series of unfortunate events.
It is a complex and rising issue here in Surrey.
The Goal – to empower people to support those who are homeless, by educating them on the practical steps they can take, to together, find a solution to this issue locally.
‘Surrey Stats’ – Source, Surrey County Council
There is disparity in the current level of homelessness among Surrey’s district and boroughs, with Spelthorne and Epsom and Ewell presenting significantly higher rates (taken from Q3 2020).
The trend levels differ greatly across the county also, increasing the most between Q2 2019 and Q3 2020 in Woking, which is up 70.9%.
From July–September 2020 there were 324 households assessed to be homeless in Surrey. 779 households were considered to be either homeless or threatened with homelessness in the next 56 days.
Although these Government statistics are accurate according to estimation, we know from those working on the frontline that there is likely to be gaps in this data. Depending on how the data is captured – often it is just a snapshot in time, taken from one night of each year. This could be misleading as it could exclude those sofa surfing, homeless homeowners, or those with no recourse to public funds etc.
Surrey is responsible for having huge housing inequality gaps across its wards. For many, this leads to crisis situations such as homelessness. We know that the median cost of renting a 2-bed flat in Elmbridge is £1,200 a month – almost double that for England as a whole which equates to £700 a month. (Source: ONS, Dec 2020)
Organisations such as Elmbridge Rentstart bridge this gap, providing and assisting in the provision of housing, advice, support and practical assistance, to support single homeless people who are not entitled to statutory support and are termed ‘non-priority.’ These individuals face multiple barriers such as lack of savings for deposits or rent in advance, physical and mental health issues, addiction problems, and unemployment.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on homelessness
Living without a home, rough sleeping or staying in temporary accommodation is very damaging for health. Homeless people often have many complex health issues, including tri-morbidity (the co-existence of physical and mental health and addiction problems).
Many of the measures aimed at the general population, such as self-isolation, increased hygiene, staying at home, strict social distancing, are not a realistic prospect for people experiencing homelessness.
Where do we go from here?
When Covid-19 first hit, the ‘Everyone In’ Government Scheme helped get people off the streets and into temporary accommodation. This was a fantastic initiative to end rough sleeping. However, with the ongoing pandemic and funding running out, it is no surprise homelessness numbers are beginning to rise. It is critical we continue to support those affected by the issue, and the organisations assisting them, to ensure we do not lose the progress that has already been made.
There is real concern that local people could ‘fall through the net,’ and become destitute while they are awaiting support. Local organisations that the Community Foundation supports are experiencing stark demand for their already stretched services.
People are more at risk of homelessness now than ever, due to the economic fallout of Covid – thousands of people are experiencing loss of income due to losing their job, being Furloughed, or the difficulty they are having now accessing support from wider schemes, such as Universal Credit. This inability to retain affordable housing is leading to a rise in the number of rent arrears across the county. There is concern for when the eviction laws change in May 2021.
The Community Foundation for Surrey is committed to supporting homelessness across the county, working together with charities such as Transform Housing & Support, The Hope Hub and Elmbridge Rentstart to ensure the positive local solutions they are delivering, remain available for those most vulnerable within our communities.
Supporting someone who is homeless
Our speakers shared valuable insights into the practical steps you can take to support someone who is homeless.
- Refer wisely – Often people get bumped around different organisations, so finding a direct route for someone prior to referring them can make a huge difference to how they then interact with potential help. For example, if you think someone may be sleeping rough on a national level you can report it to Streetlink. Here in Surrey, there are a number of fantastic local organisations such as Transform Support & Housing providing county wide support.
- Donate: time, money, expertise – Many organisations rely on the help of volunteers and there are far more ways to get involved than might come to mind. Perhaps helping in the CRISIS delivery side, to working in the kitchen, or if you prefer behind the scenes supporting administrative aspects. Equally, you are likely to have essential skills that could help transform lives. You could donate new and unused items such as toiletries, socks or underwear, as well as homeware items, food, bottled water, sleeping bags or flasks.
- Be Kind – Remember to show warmth and compassion to people experiencing homelessness. How we look (or do not look) at people, and our attitude towards people, can have a profound effect on their perception of their place in the world. While it is inadvisable to give money to people on the streets, it is certainly important to treat people with a genuine empathy and dignity – someone who has a place in society and is deserving of help.
More information on how you can support someone who is homeless can be found in our recent blog:
You can help give Surrey hope by making a donation.
If you were inspired by what you heard and would like to help the Community Foundation support voluntary organisations which are assisting local communities to cope and find a long term and sustainable pathway to recovery following the pandemic, you can do so by making a donation into our Surrey Community Fund by contacting our Director of Philanthropy Claire Heath on email@example.com or calling 01483 906383.
A recording of our webinar is now available.
Thank you to our inspiring speakers
- Helen Watson – Chief Executive, Rentstart (UK) Ltd
Rentstart began nearly 20 years ago and over that time the charity has continuously reacted to tackle the ongoing issues that homeless people in Elmbridge face in gaining housing and rebuilding their lives.
Helen’s role as CEO is to make sure the charity is the best that it can be. For Helen, this means housing and supporting those who go to them for help with empathy and intelligence, and ensuring that staff feel supported to deliver their best work. She loves to see the real impact they deliver and enjoys talking with current and ex clients about how they are moving on with their lives.
Helen’s work is also about making sure that as a local charity, they can contribute to a larger arena, sharing their results and ideas with other organisations such as Crisis and Homeless Link.
- Mags Mercer – Chief Executive, The Hope Hub
Mags brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the housing, homeless and voluntary sectors. Having been a CEO of another homeless and vulnerable adults’ charity, The Hope Hub welcomes her expertise as they establish themselves as a professional service provider.
Mags is a qualified member of the Institute of Fundraising and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) encompassing Management and Leadership, Financial Control and Strategic Marketing.
Prior to leading the set up of The Hope Hub in December 2017, Mags carried out a 9 month independent Consultation for Surrey Heath Borough Council around Homeless Services. She was subsequently asked to proceed with the recommendation she set out and went on to set up the charity. Now in it’s 3rd year, The Hope Hub is providing a range of Crisis drop in and Empowerment Services.
The Hope Hub has remained open throughout the Lockdowns and in the period April – December 2020, supported 190 Clients who accessed services 6,979 times.
- Viccy Johnson – Area Manager, Transform Housing & Support
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