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The hidden crisis: Examining the depths of homelessness in Leicester
Leicester city council strives to improve the rates of homelessness and poverty in the city, as a part of their Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy, which ends this year, and their anti-poverty programme.
Over the past five years, efforts to reduce homelessness in Leicester have been dashed by a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic, an increase in insecure employment, changes to the benefits system, Brexit, and the cost of living crisis. The effect of these challenges has been and continues to be damaging.
The Homelessness Reduction Act in 2018 made it so that all councils have duties to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. However, there is not one simple way to reduce the rates of homelessness due to its complexity.
According to the Leicester city council’s website, the city was the 32nd most deprived local authority in England out of 317 local authorities in 2019. Although the ranking has improved by 11 places since 2015, homelessness is still a big concern in Leicester.
Analysis by Loughborough University has found that in 2023, more than 40% of children in Leicester are living in poverty. This increase means that 37,000 children in the city are classed as living in poverty where parents are struggling to afford basic essentials like food, shelter, and clothing.
As a part of the council’s anti-poverty programme, they introduced an anti-poverty community grants scheme in November 2022. These grants are offered to local organisations to carry out projects that will help tackle poverty in Leicester and reduce the impact of it. £250,000 of funding is available in total each year between 2022 and 2025 – but how effective will these grants be?
Who has received funding recently?
Leicester city council have awarded a £10,000 grant to the local charity, Action Homeless, for their new Money Talks project to support those facing homelessness. The charity is celebrating its 50 years of its commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
“The grant was a boost and an add-on to other grants we have received.”
With the grant from the council and other funding, Action Homeless launched their Money Talks 2023 project last Monday which aims to encourage people experiencing homelessness to seek advice and support. Support with budgeting and finances is the main focus of the project with drop-in clinics, workshops and one-to-one appointments. The first workshop will be coming up in the next few weeks.
Many people who are experiencing homelessness can have low self-esteem and self-confidence, so it was important for the charity to create a safe and inclusive space, as a part of the project.
One way to help tackle homelessness in Leicester is the training of staff who meet those struggling with homelessness. The project includes this by providing information sessions for staff so that they are better equipped to help those in crisis.
Rough sleeping and homelessness have increased recently, which Action Homeless are trying to reduce. In 2021/2022, they provided housing and support to 463 people in Leicester and supported 139 people to move into more secure and permanent homes.
Despite the several positive policies, support and grants that Leicester city council have put in place, it is still difficult to fully reduce homelessness. Stringer added: “I think they [the council] have been working against a very difficult backdrop with Covid-19 and, now, the cost of living.
“But they do help. All bits of funding and support do contribute to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
“Leicester is not an affordable place to live if you have low income.”
In 2021, NatWest ranked Leicester in the top 10 for the most affordable cities to live in across the UK. Interestingly, in 2022, Leicester was not included in the rankings. However, despite the city being classed as affordable, there is the ongoing housing crisis since Leicester city council announced it in November 2022. The issues with housing are very damaging to those living in the city with over 90,000 families and more than 120,000 children sleeping in “temporary accommodation” which seriously impacts their wellbeing and education.
“Homelessness in Leicester is an important and prominent issue, but it is a complicated social problem to solve due to the health and social care issues that often need to be solved for people to live independently. Stringer said: “It is not just putting a roof over someone’s head.”
Recent government statistics show that 398 households in Leicester owed a “prevention duty” by household composition between October and December 2022. This means that 398 Leicester households who were threatened with homelessness needed housing authorities to help prevent them from becoming homeless within 56 days.
Also, between October and December 2022, 273 households in Leicester owed a “relief duty” by household composition, meaning that the housing authorities were obliged to take reasonable steps to help the households find suitable and secure accommodation for at least six months. 165 of these households consisted of single adult males.
The statistics on homelessness and rough sleeping are still high, despite the efforts of the council.
Continuing to reduce homelessness in the city will require further funding and long-term consistent work from the council and local charities.
- If you come across an individual over the age of 18 who appears to be sleeping rough in Leicester and you are concerned about their wellbeing, or if you are currently experiencing homelessness yourself, you can contact StreetLink. Their online tool can be accessed at www.streetlink.org.uk. In the case that someone sleeping rough is under 18 years old, or if you believe that they are in immediate danger and require urgent assistance, please call 999.