This week I attended a reception hosted by the Speaker at the House of Commons to celebrate 30 years of a brilliant initiative, Nightstop.
The service was set up by the charity Depaul which focuses especially on young homeless people. The Patron of Depaul International is the Duchess of Norfolk. Nightstop provides emergency accommodation for 16 to 25 year old homeless young people in the homes of approved volunteer hosts.
Young people typically stay with Nightstop for seven or eight nights while Depaul and its partners look for somewhere safe for them to stay long term. Over half of young people on Nightstop come to the service because of relationship breakdown. Learning about this extraordinary service made me appreciate who really are the victims of homelessness. It breaks down preconceived notions about who is on our streets and why. One in ten rough sleepers in London are care leavers, while one in five of the homeless people which the charity Crisis works with have experienced domestic violence.
I am an Officer and one of the founding members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ending Homelessness. We set this up with the support of homeless charities three years ago in response to growing numbers of people rough sleeping and a rising trend in the number of homeless applications. We investigated three specific groups of homeless people – care leavers, prison leavers and survivors of domestic violence – and found that they not getting the housing support they need and are at significant risk of homelessness. But we also found that their homelessness is preventable.
Nearly four out of every ten rough sleepers in London has been in prison – yet a fifth of prison leavers say they have no home to go to when they are released.
This year, a major piece of legislation supported by the Government was introduced – the Homelessness Reduction Act. It places new duties on councils to prevent and relieve homelessness. But of course we also need to ensure that there are enough affordable homes.
World Homeless Day was on October 10, and many local people slept out to help raise funds for homeless charities and also to raise the profile of this issue and help to explain what it is really about. Locally, the charity Stonepillow has been doing marvellous work for nearly three decades, and provides a lifeline for homeless people with hubs, hostels and supported accommodation in Chichester, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.
Fantastic charities like this and Depaul really deserve our support.
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