Centrepoint and Southwark Council have joined forces to create a new kind of affordable housing that will help homeless young people get their lives back on track, giving hope to everyone working to end the homelessness crisis in our society.

New ways of tackling homelessness are having an impact, but there is still a long way to go because the number of those sleeping rough, or who are in temporary accommodation, remains high.

In December 2020, the Government gave councils support to prevent vulnerable people becoming homeless.

It granted £310m for areas with high numbers of homeless people, those at risk of homelessness, or those living in temporary accommodation, with the aim of helping  them to rebuild their lives.

That increases the total funding allocated for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping next year to more than £750m.

It’s all part of a commitment to the Homelessness Reduction Act in which local authorities have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent or relieve homelessness for anyone at risk of homelessness within 56 days.

However, homelessness in the UK still remains hard to quantify, as many people who find themselves without a permanent address are by their very circumstances off the radar.

However Crisis, the homeless charity, has produced a plan to end homelessness.

It estimates that around 200,000 people were experiencing core homelessness – the most severe and immediate forms of homelessness – in England in 2020.

The Everyone In scheme, which brought rough sleepers off the streets and gave them shelter in hotels and other emergency accommodation during the pandemic, has also affected official figures.

On the surface, the number of people being allocated temporary accommodation has grown, but this is because rough sleepers were moved into hotels and other temporary places to stay during the pandemic.

Figures for London show that the number of people seen sleeping rough actually fell almost 10 per cent in the three months before Christmas, but the signs are there that more people are becoming homeless.

Many of them are what is termed ‘the hidden homeless’, which means people who do not have a permanent home and instead stay with friends or family.

Also known as sofa surfing, many people in this situation usually don’t consider themselves to be homeless and so charities and other services don’t have any information about them.

As a result, they don’t appear in any statistics.

Crisis believes that as many as 62 per cent of single homeless people do not show up on official figures, and run the risk of slipping through the cracks.

Its view is: “While emergency accommodation is essential in a crisis, and keeps many people off the streets, this must be a short-term response and, if possible, is best avoided.

“The plan is based on the principle that everyone can and should be housed; nobody should have to qualify for it or prove they are ‘housing-ready’.

“This housing-led principle requires that person-specific support must be provided to help people access housing and stay in it.

“The label ‘the homeless’ is unhelpful and detrimental.

“As soon as possible, people should be helped to regain a normal existence in mainstream housing.”

So news that Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, has been awarded planning permission from Southwark Council to build 33 new single-occupancy modular homes in Peckham is a game-changer.

This isn’t about finding temporary accommodation, but permanent long-term solutions that give young people an opportunity to move from a vicious circle of rough sleeping and temporary accommodation to a more permanent and affordable way to live.

As accommodation in big cities, especially London, is usually out of reach for individuals doing an apprenticeship or making a minimum wage, these modular homes are a lifeline.

Not only do they give young people the chance to move from temporary accommodation at Centrepoint into their own home, but that temporary accommodation is then freed up for someone on the streets to take their place and get the support they need.

The scheme, which is part of the Independent Living Programme, is a revolutionary approach that not only supplies a homeless young person with somewhere to live but also gives them entry-level or apprenticeship roles that lead to full-time employment.

The Independent Living Programme seeks to tackle the shortage of high-quality affordable accommodation, free up hostel beds Centrepoint currently provides for those in dire need, and give young people a real future of independence.

There will be 33 modular homes built as part of the initiative.

Because of the way they are built, the costs will be kept low as will the construction times.

As part of the Independent Living Programme, Centrepoint aims to only charge a young person approximately one-third of their salary as rent.

This would typically mean a 20-year old young person in Manchester, earning minimum wage (currently £6.56 per hour or £1,050 per month) would pay around £350 per month to live in a self-contained apartment.

However, Centrepoint’s intention is to work with ethical employers to ensure young people earn above minimum wage.

That would mean someone in London earning £18,000 per year would pay around £500 per month to live independently.

The Peckham scheme is just the start, because Centrepoint is also talking to councils in Barnet, Hounslow, Waltham Forest, as well as in Manchester, with the aim of rolling out the scheme to other areas.

It is also looking for partners to help expand the Independent Living Programme.

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