Homelessness Sunday was held at the Salvation Army Citadel, organised by the Trinity Trust, Andover. Members of the Harmonium Singers, conducted by Bruce Randall, performed Brother James’ Ayre, and John Rutter’s “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
Talks were given by four people, all involved in tackling homelessness locally.
Brian Cowcher, Head of Housing Strategy at Test Valley Borough Council, explained that resources were being put into advice and prevention, and the planning system was being used to provide more affordable housing on new developments. In addition, some families were being helped into private rented accommodation through the Rent Deposit Scheme. He hoped this would enable the Council to respond to the growing number of families accepted as homeless, up from 123 in1997/8 to 183 in 2000/01. At the moment, 18 families were in B&B, some as far away as Slough. The most usual reasons for becoming homeless were the expiry of a lease in private rented accommodation; friends and relations no longer being able to provide accommodation; and relationship breakdown. In addition, Andover was a high cost area in which to live, putting home ownership beyond the reach of many people.
Paul Crawte, Resources Manager at the House, explained that his project offered advice and support to those aged 14-25.
"Young people are now, to some extent, recognised in housing legislation as being in priority need. Shelter report that 25% of street homeless are aged below 25 years, and that a third of these will have a drug problem. One quarter to one third of street homeless have spent time in the care of their local authority, and a disproportionate number hold a poor history of previous school attendance and academic achievement. If the solutions to homelessness are to be found then we must recognise that what happens to a person when they are young, the opportunities they are afforded, the situations they are so often placed in, will affect what happens to them when they are older. If a young person finds they have to fight their way through adolescence. unable to access education because they don't fit the system, unable to learn acceptable social skills because their parents suffered a similar youth, then we should not be surprised when they apply the only ways of behaving and getting results, or at least being safer, in later life.
It is recognised in the field of information and advice work that the benefits system for 16 - 17 year olds is far too complex. Indeed, the system of welfare benefits that gives you less money because you are young has been linked to youth homelessness by several researching groups.
So what do we do at The House? Sometimes just offering a listening car and a cup of tea can be enough. Often young people present when their lives are in crisis and they just don't know what to do next. They may feel they are being bounced from one agency to the next. We can help them work out just what's going on, what they need to do next, and talk through what resources are available."
Simon Mantle, Chief executive of Two Saints spoke of the challenges that confronted organisations such as his own that tackled homelessness. 25% of the street homeless were now under 25, whereas, traditionally, the street homeless were much older. Drugs were a significant problem for many of them, and his job was to give them opportunity and hope. Two Saints run day-centres and emergency housing projects, including a home in Micheldever Rd. They hoped to move that project to another location later in the year. What was needed to tackle homelessness was enough bricks and mortar, and enough care and support.
Finally, Tony Bettaney, Hon Treasurer of Trinity Trust, said that the Trust had collected £36,000, of which £27,000 had been raised through the Millennium Gift Project. This would be applied to the project that Simon Mantle referred to.
“This was a very moving and effective service, bringing the congregation up to date with progress locally. As a former Housing Minister, I was concerned to hear the the homeless figures nationally had gone up over the past five years.”
Attending the service was the Deputy Mayor Cllr Tony Gentle, Sir George Young MP, , the Leader of the Council Cllr Ian Carr, and Cllr Pat West.