Ending homelessness

Despite rising numbers of people in temporary accommodation, there are reasons to be optimistic


Image: Istock

Moh Hussein

Head of Housing,

Arun District Council

I have had the opportunity to serve homeless people for more than 30 years. Having been something of a journeyman during my career, I have worked at more than 20 local authorities, in the third sector, with housing associations and the private sector.

So, when thinking about what to discuss in this piece it made me reflect on that time, the changes we have seen, and their impact on homelessness. From landmark case law, to changes in legislation, to new ways of working, the picture on outcomes is ambiguous.

During my career I have seen temporary accommodation and rough sleeper numbers go up as well down. Recently there has been welcome progress in tackling rough sleeping across the country, but numbers in temporary accommodation have been increasing and the shame of children in bed and breakfast accommodation remains a reality.

Progress report

And what has been my experience of progress in tackling these challenges? What I see everywhere I have been is the fantastic energy, compassion and wisdom of people who serve homeless people. From frontline officers and team leaders, to people from the third sector, and politicians from every party. It is because of this energy and support that change is possible and is happening.

From innovation like the Greater Manchester Housing First pilot, to the work of organisations like Beam, which are challenging the ways to help homeless people, and the Centre for Homelessness Impact, a great deal of pioneering work is being undertaken. And the most effective, committed and passionate drivers for change are the frontline officers and managers that are there day-in, day-out for the people we serve.

“Humans can land rockets on asteroids and build cocktail-making robots, yet we are still placing children in bed and breakfast hotels.”

No room for complacency

Yet we live in such a fast-moving world and even with the efforts being made across the country, are we keeping up with the pace of change; digitisation, the use of data, human-led design of services? I think there is no room for complacency.

Humans can land rockets on asteroids and build cocktail-making robots, yet we are still placing children in bed and breakfast hotels, our systems seldom have the accessibility and ease of others, and we are still not preventing enough people from becoming homeless.

I experienced homelessness twice as a child and it was an excoriating experience that bled the dignity from our family. So, while it may sound quixotic, I have never wanted to work in homelessness to just ‘manage’ the problem; I want to be a part of ending it and that is still what drives me.

So, I remain undaunted by the challenges we face, because I know I am but a small drop in that tsunami of will and determination of so many who work in this sector. If all that energy can be harnessed, focused and brought together in collaborative ways, we can unleash an almighty potential. Who knows what we could achieve? I remain hopeful of an end to homelessness during my lifetime.


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