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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité: Breaking the cycle of housing poverty (part III)

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Why are people returning to sleeping on the streets? Reflections on the reasons why people go back to sleeping rough as highlighted in a recent peer led research report written by St Mungo's homelessness charity in London

Fraternité (Brotherhood) - the need for Community

We were approached at the Wolverhampton Business Forum recently and asked to comment on the following statement:

“I have been told that everyone in Wolverhampton is offered a bed-space by the council”

The premise behind this statement is the assumption that the solution to homelessness is as simple as putting rooves over people’s heads. The reality is however that many individuals who have been temporarily housed return to sleeping rough within a year.

St Mungo’s per led research and report on people returning to the streets of London

A report published by leading homelessness charity in London St Mungo’s following per led research has highlighted the following factors in exploring why this would be the case:

· Push Factors, including: eviction; leaving because accommodation was unsuitable, unsanitary or unsafe; and fleeing violence or abuse

· Pull Factors, including: a sense of belonging and community on the street compared to boredom and isolation when living alone

· Holes in the safety net, including: a lack of informal support options such as friends and family to stay with; trauma and unmet health needs which make it hard to cope with living independently; and barriers to accessing new accommodation such as not having money for a deposit.

· Access to help and support, including: barriers to accessing practical and personal support; prior experience of being turned away or being treated negatively; and difficulty in gaining access to services.

Further details of the report and its findings can be found here.

Our experience of similar issues in Wolverhampton

The matters highlighted by this report are not just issues facing people sleeping rough in London but are similar right across the country:

Anthony Walker is the Homelessness Strategy and External Partners Manager with City of Wolverhampton Council and works closely with local voluntary and charity groups. He also sees relational poverty and community as being central to long term solutions: " When you remove a rough sleeper from that community you need to replace it with something or somebody and the churches and voluntary groups can do that. I think that’s a brilliant piece of work and something councils struggle to do on the individual level they can”.

According to the Church Urban Funds paper on the Web of Poverty, there are three different types of poverty that impact upon the lives of individuals caught in it: Poverty of identity, poverty of resources and poverty of relationships. What St Mungo's report and the above considerations really highlights to us is how important building relationships and community is in seeking to deal with homelessness. We have come to the firm conclusion that relational poverty is the main root cause of homelessness and we will expand further on this in our next posting