Quite rightly over the last few weeks, many of those with a social conscience have been focussed on homelessness and concern about those that find themselves without a home. There are a number of equalities issues that intersect with this including the following four:
- The LGBT+ communities are over-represented as homeless. With LGBT+ community and voluntary groups local being poorly funded with little if any infrastructure (no permanent full-time workers, no whole time not-for profit centres) there is no natural port of call or road map to support. Many of those facing homelessness having to do as a result of family conflict as a result of their sexuality and have little social capital or contacts in finding another place to stay. Traditional homelessness services can seem very threatening or in accessible.
- Women have less access to homeless services locally that men. The newer services such as the shelter in Northampton run by the Council has been designated to men only. With some other domestic abuse services locally investing more ringfenced resources into provision for men experiencing domestic abuse at a time where it is recognised that there is insufficient resources to support women facing domestic abuse, the result is an increasing shortage of support for women. The changes in housing benefit and intermittent nature of the government funding for this means that there is an inherent instability in local community based domestic violence services. The loss last year of Wellingborough and East Northants Women’s Aid brings home the reality of this. In addition, there is a recognised lack of resources and specialist provision for interpersonal abuse services for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The experience for local BAME women will mean that they will be seeking services at a point of desperation and coping with services that may not have the skills, experience or expertise to deliver to their needs.
- Up until a few weeks ago the response of many of the statutory homelessness services were seeing deportation as the solution of choice for any European and other migrants. This is exacerbated by the ratcheting up or the requirement to prove the right to reside and right to work. I met an Lithuainian young man sitting in Abington Street who had told me that having lost his passport and lost his job, he lost his home and was waiting for an appointment with his embassy in mid-january for an appointment for a replacement. Until then he was on the streets. Although as a result of a High Court decision on 14th December deportation of EU migrants has been ruled as unlawful, there is still work to be done to get the message out to communities.
- At Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council we have received a number of complaints over the years about hate incidents in local homelessness services. Some of the most vulnerable people experiencing abuse in places where they should be able to seek sanctuary. The response of some statutory agencies to these incidents seems to be one on damage control rather than the pursuit of justice. Just another indication of the shift away from a victim focused approach that began with Northamptonshire Police’s axing of their Hate Crime Unit three and a half years ago.