Homelessness made headlines yesterday when Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced a £100 million plan to end rough sleeping by 2027.
The Rough Sleeping Strategy vows to tackle the issue of 4,750 people estimated to be sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2017, and focus on offering support to prevent people becoming homeless.
However, the plans quickly came under fire when Brokenshire revealed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that half of the £100 million had already been committed to the cause, and the other half had been "reprioritised" from existing budgets in his department.
Critics condemned the strategy for not addressing the problem of building new affordable homes with housing charity Shelter calling it “not a total fix for homelessness.”
“We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting, and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home. If the government wants to eradicate rough-sleeping for good, this strategy must be quickly followed by a new plan to build many more social homes and efforts to create real security for those struggling with their rent,” Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said in a statement.
While we often think of homelessness being an issue that affects men more than women, the government’s failure to solve the problem is putting many vulnerable women at risk.
Although government data suggests that 14% of people sleeping on our streets are women, Shelter reports that the numbers are in reality higher because women often prefer hidden sleep sites to reduce their vulnerability to assault. In fact, there is a strong link between domestic abuse and homelessness with Women’s Aid finding that 11% of women sleep rough while searching for refuge.
These stats also don’t take into account those who are in emergency or temporary accommodation. According to Shelter, women make up 66% of this group. This is primarily because single-parent households are more at risk of homelessness, and these single parents are likely to be women (93% of the time to be precise). Furthermore, considering 60% of people claiming housing benefit are female, women have been more affected than men by the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
We already know that women bear the brunt when it comes to austerity cuts, and this issue of homelessness reinforces this once again. Just because we don't always see women in the streets, it doesn't mean they aren't affected.