As rents and property prices continue to rocket, eviction from private rented accommodation is now the number one reason for homelessness in Lambeth. Kimberley Moyo looks at the background to a mounting crisis.
As many as 5,000 Lambeth children are sleeping in temporary accommodation or homeless hostels. And more and more people are being forced to leave the borough to find a roof over their head.
Labour Cllr Matthew Bennett, Lambeth council’s cabinet member for housing, told a recent cabinet meeting that there had been about 1,500 homeless families in Lambeth in January 2014 but that number had reached more than 1,800 by the end of 2015.
He said the council’s budget for temporary accommodation was set at £5 million, but that local pressures and cuts from central government would force the council to overspend by an extra £5 million.
“Rents in the private sector continue to rise and eviction from private rented accommodation is the number one reason for homelessness in Lambeth.”
According to a think tank, most of the offers for temporary accommodation for homeless Lambeth families are outside the borough.
The New Policy Institute’s London Poverty Profile reveals that more than half of the people from Lambeth that are placed in temporary accommodation are placed outside of the borough, making it one out the four worst London boroughs for placements outside of the area.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke told the cabinet meeting: “While you have hundreds of thousands of families in temporary accommodation, this is putting huge pressures on children who then have to travel long distances to school.
“Parents might have to leave their jobs because they are too far away.”
Cllr Edbrooke said government policies on children and families were “short-sighted”.
It was putting money into the Troubled Families Programme in an effort to prevent the problems experienced by the country’s most vulnerable families from worsening, at the same time as cutting funding for housing and public health – undermining efforts by local authorities to help troubled families.
A south London based charity helping the homeless and the most disadvantaged people told Brixton Blog that many families have lost their homes through being unable to pay their rent as a result of the government’s capping of housing benefit.
Pamela Mhlophe, women’s services manager at Spires said: “Generally, when you are supporting a man who is homeless, you are just supporting that individual. Supporting a woman is more complex as the women we support here at Spires always tend to come with young children.
“Women and children are what you call the hidden homeless— they will not likely spill out onto the streets but will be placed in hostels.”
Lambeth council faces a 56% cut in central government funding, which is likely to affect the amount of money local charities like Spires get.
“We are really stretched for resources,” says Pamela Mhlophe. “We do what we can for them – like give them food and clothing, and offer them the chance to shower at our centre – but it is really tough,”.
Some 100,000 children across the country are believed to have spent Christmas in hostels and bed and breakfast facilities according to the housing charity Shelter.
If you and your family face eviction and homelessness in Lambeth, or if you know someone who is sleeping rough, you can contact the following agencies for help:
- Lambeth Council (Olive Morris House)
- Catch22 for 16-25 year old care and foster home leavers in Lambeth
- Spires for food, clothing, showers, healthcare and support & advice
- NoSecondNightOut for anybody experiencing homelessness in London
- StreetLink for anybody who is sleeping rough right now
- Shelter for broad and general information on homelessness
- Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth campaigning group.
Much needs to be done to overhaul housing policy in England and Wales. In particular homelessness needs a rethink and ALL homelessness should be treated as a priority. Please sign and share this petition if you agree.
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