A message from Carla Keegans, Founding Director of The Ethical Lettings Agency CIC and The Ethical housing Company:
Rising Homelessness across Redcar and Cleveland affects our community.
Have you seen people sleeping rough recently? Most likely. I am born and bred in Redcar and a housing professional and this is the worst I’ve known it. Unfortunately, it will continue to get worse.
When you see people sleeping rough this is a definite sign that all forms of homelessness are rising. That’s because sleeping rough is the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath are the many more people who are the ‘hidden homeless’. That includes all the people ‘sofa surfing’ between friends/family houses because they can’t get a home of their own. It also includes those staying in temporary/emergency accommodation like B&Bs, hostels etc.
Over the past year we have seen over a 150% increase in homelessness people.
The vast majority of people facing homelessnes in our community are just like you and me; decent people trying to make a life for themselves.
Why is it happening?
The biggest cause of homelessness in the UK over recent years has been evictions from the private rent sector and the biggest reason for evictions is rent arrears. In Teesside, 60% of all tenants in the private rent sector have to claim benefits to help pay their rent. So that’s about 10% of the whole Teesside population.
Housing benefit in the private rent sector has been cut and frozen since 2011 by Government so it becomes increasingly difficult for people to keep up with rent payments. Many private landlords/agents who don’t know how to manage the benefits system then end up serving eviction notices.
Other causes of homelesnsess that we have seen rising over the past year are also women fleeing domestic violence, people being released from mental health institutions, relationship breakdowns, and young people who cannot go back to family.
We housed 25 homeless people over the past year, that’s almost double compared to the year before, and we support people to stay in their tenancies. We therefore help to reduce and prevent homelessness in Redcar and Cleveland. We do this as part of what we do; because we are a social enterprise.
Much more is needed if we are to really stop homelessness from taking hold in our community.
Homelessness happens to people very quickly nowadays and it can be very difficult to get back from. Support services not just benefits have been cut and so people have to struggle on their own. Not everyone has family to help them.
The practicalities are these: people can’t afford up front rent and bonds, don't’ have perfect credit scores or references and so are denied access to rented properties from many agencies or even social landlords. People’s choices become very slim. Many end up sofa surfing, or end up with rogue landlords in substandard or dangerous properties. Some people are even backed into making risky decisions to not end up on the streets, particularly females.
This is all going on in our community. People are ashamed even when they are homeless through no fault of their own and will hide it for as long as possible.
The council has a legal duty to assess every person that approaches them for help. We advise everyone to always register with the council so that the data the council collects accurately reflects the true extent of homelessness in the borough. We know that many people do not go to the council, for various reasons.
Homelessness weakens communities and families - it is no good for any community to have people in such dire situations. Families often break down when facing homelessness. A strong community supports each other through good times and bad.
Let’s end homelessness together!
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