Buried deep in Trust for London’s 2015 Poverty Profile (PDF), we found an intriguing statistic.
Camden has the lowest number of homeless applications and acceptances in the whole of London. With the levels of homelessness in the capital more than double those in the rest of England, what is Camden doing that seems to be working? We decided to find out.
Am I homeless?
Firstly, a word about what acceptances actually are. Anyone can make an application to their local council to state that they’re homeless. But the council only has a duty to find you somewhere to live if it accepts you as Statutorily Homeless under the 1996 Housing Act. The criteria for this are: you can prove you have a connection to the area, you’re unintentionally homeless and you are in priority need (i.e. a vulnerable group like a family). In June 2015, over 48,000 London households were homeless and living in temporary accommodation.
To give you some idea of the figures at the opposite ends of the scale, Barking and Dagenham had the highest levels of homelessness with more than 750 (or 9.9) homelessness acceptances for every 1,000 households. Camden’s is just 64 households, or 0.6 per 1,000 households in the borough.
Camden’s Hostel Pathways
So what is Camden doing differently? In 2007, the council introduced the Hostel Pathways Model, which was intended to bring some consistency to how the homeless and rough sleepers were supported.
Put simply, it means the council assess the individual according to need (for example, drug or alcohol dependencies, ex-offenders) and provide holistic support, including help to get accommodation, jobs, qualifications, and drug or alcohol rehabilitation so they can live independently.
And the council’s intervention doesn’t begin when someone turns up at its office asking to be housed. A Safer Streets Team (SST) and third sector agency called the Crime Reduction Initiative (CRI) go out and engage directly with rough sleepers, people involved in begging, street drinkers and drug users, and sex workers to offer treatment and accommodation.
One of the biggest barriers to getting accommodation, especially for rough sleepers and the homeless, is scraping together enough money for a deposit and rent in advance, especially in the private sector. This is where the Move-on Lettings Scheme comes in, allowing people to move into the private rental market without having to stump up thousands before even getting the keys.
What about other boroughs?
While Camden is not the only London borough which has developed this kind of holistic approach, it appears to be one of the more successful. Waltham Forest has a higher number of homeless households (though a tiny number of rough sleepers) and is doing something not dissimilar — the council’s Supporting People (PDF) strategy also concentrates on the complex reasons why people become homeless and aims to tackle those. Hackney (PDF) has also identified a need to join up services which help the homeless, though it also introduced fines of up to £1,000 for rough sleeping which suggests the council hasn’t quite got a handle on the holistic approach yet.
With 29 of the 32 London boroughs having spent more than £358m on temporary accommodation between 2012 and 2015, it’s very much in the interests of local authorities to start tackling the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping early.