Poverty and homelessness go hand in hand
But with political will and compassion we can break the cycle
When asked why some people become homeless, it’s easy for us as a charity to say 'it’s complicated'. But sadly, it is often fairly simple.
Most people become homeless because they are denied the help and the opportunities they need to break the cycle of destitution.
Relationship breakdown is often referenced as one of the key ‘drivers’ of homelessness. But what often sits behind it is poverty - the daily struggle, the pain of having to make impossible decisions, the constant fear, the feelings of hopelessness and fatigue. Living in poverty can overwhelm the strongest relationships, destroying people’s ability to make sound and appropriate decisions which results in devastating consequences.
The government has failed to address this issue in its housing and welfare policies, and in its measures to tackle rough sleeping. This means that people living in poverty continue to be disproportionately affected by homelessness.
The global pandemic has shown us that with political will, energy and compassion, we can bring much needed relief to people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.
We welcomed the emergency measures brought in by the government to protect people who were homeless or at risk of becoming so when the pandemic began. But this support needs to be extended.
Our helpline is already taking calls from very frightened people in urgent need of help: people in low paid jobs who have now lost their employment and can’t pay their rent, or those who are facing the threat of homelessness now that the eviction ban has been lifted.
Finding affordable accommodation in this part of the country is near impossible, with benefits falling way below the true cost of renting. People on low incomes are dealing with impossible choices about keeping a roof over their head and paying for essentials like food and bills.
So, whilst coronavirus has forced some positive changes on a temporary basis, it has further exposed the inequalities that thousands of people face every day.
But we've proved that with the right tools and financial backing, we can make sure that the most vulnerable people, and those who are struggling, are not forgotten. By reducing the pressure on people’s lives and helping them for as long as they need, we can break the cycle of poverty and housing insecurity.
What we need now is a firm commitment from both national and local government that the energy, compassion and financial pledges will continue, so that we can build on the lessons learned during the pandemic and protect everyone in society in the way that they deserve.
This blog was written by Mike Barrett, Porchlight's chief executive