This week the latest figures on homeless deaths were released. Whilst we weren’t completely shocked we were really distressed to see such a sharp national rise in the number of people who have lost their lives on our streets, without a home of their own.
The latest homeless death statistics show an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018. This represents a 22% increase since records began.
These statistics are tragic and distressing but at the same time, they increase our determination to end rough sleeping, to ensure that everybody has access to accommodation and are given multiple chances to lead a fulfilled and purposeful life. We will breakdown the stereotypes of what it means to be homeless, to honour people for who they are, each person with his/her own unique life story, talent, challenges, loves, and losses.
Here in Wigan, The Brick provides 47 bed spaces, 365 days a year covering our commissioned hub facilities in Wigan and Leigh, St George’s Church shelter and our own residential project. We work in close partnership with Wigan Council and embrace the ethos of collaboration to create a better borough. The demand for emergency and supported social accommodation is growing and so does our desire to increase our offering of bed spaces and social housing, to ensure every person in need receives a bed every night. But much more than that – we strive to provide real meaningful opportunities for people to gain skills, self-confidence and a sense of achievement through an asset based approach to support.
Progress is being made within the Wigan borough, across Greater Manchester the number of homeless deaths has fallen by 16% compared to the national increase. However, this is little consolation as one death is one too many. On Tuesday 29th September representatives of The Brick attended a vigil to remember all those people in Greater Manchester who have lost their lives on the street. We heard the names of 42 people, each one afforded the dignity and respect in death that was and should have been due to them when they were alive.
In the words of our friend, the Reverend Ian Rutherford, who spoke so powerfully on the night:
‘Every name of the people we have lost is a national scandal. The right to a home is a basic human right. We’re in the midst of a humanitarian crisis in this nation. #SocialHousing must be dramatically increased.’
Over the coming months as part of our reformation strategy, we will be organising, building power and continuing to campaign for change. Homelessness in all its forms is not a result of bad choices or even bad luck, it is a direct consequence of national social policy. We cannot solve homelessness without homes, so we are calling on all political parties to commit to building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing and benefits system (focused on prevention), and an education system geared to success for all.
Please join us in the fight and be the change you want to see.
Together we must continue to be the voice of the voiceless.