Homelessness prevention is better than cure

·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock

We have reached the cliff edge of a mass homelessness crisis. Some 4.3 million people are behind on household bills, and 564,000 people are in rent arrears.

The end of furlough has already put over a million people not only at risk of losing their jobs, but also their homes. And losing £20 a week in universal credit could be the difference between affording the rent or becoming homeless (‘Choice between using shower or oven’: harsh realities of universal credit cut, 6 October).

When I ask people what they think about the threat of mass homelessness, they refer to getting people out of rough sleeping. But this very pressing need can take the focus off the thousands who could, through pandemic-created poverty, be evicted – and they and their children could end up sofa-surfing into temporary accommodation and headfirst into homelessness.

The problem, of course, is that governments always respond to emergencies. The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather than a fence at the top, makes up nearly all of government social planning, with some little, more ambitious initiatives around the edges to look good.

Keeping people in their homes, paying their rent, paying off their arrears and getting them into work again, or into skills enhancement so they can change jobs, is vastly more sensible than letting people slip into homelessness. This eviction crisis is the perfect opportunity for the government to reinvent itself as prevention-driven. Imagine what kind of world we would live in if prevention came first.
John Bird
House of Lords

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