Tackling homelessness – the part we play

23 Apr 2024
I wanted to start by setting the scene of the reality of homelessness.  According to the charity Crisis, the average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 46 for men and 42 for women. People who are homeless are also 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and are over nine times more likely to take their own life.  

Whilst it is only a minority of homeless people who will commit crime, the experience of going into prison leads to many men and women losing their homes and becoming homeless. Without doubt, being homeless or being at risk of homelessness increases the risk of reoffending, and so the cycle continues.  

At Ingeus, as well as providing several services that support homeless people with their wellbeing, debt issues, recovery and employment, we are also commissioned to deliver specific accommodation support services across Thames Valley, Hampshire and the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester.  

These services are designed to support men who are facing homelessness on release from prison and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the community. This includes those on remand and those serving Community Orders. In Greater Manchester, our service also supports women in the justice system as well.  

We assess a person’s needs, putting a plan together and then delivering advice and interventions to support finding safe and suitable accommodation. This can include workshops to increase knowledge and skills which in turn empowers people to find and retain accommodation. We also provide practical support, such as helping to obtain ID, access to a rent deposit scheme and a guarantor service. In some circumstances, we can arrange short term accommodation whilst applications are being processed.  

To help understand the journey we support individuals through, let’s follow M’s story.  

M was in HMP Bullingdon and was referred by his Probation Officer to our accommodation service. Without support, he would have been homeless on release.  

Our Accommodation Advisor carried out an initial assessment of M’s needs, followed by our accommodation workshop to equip him with the skills and knowledge to independently find his own accommodation. 

The workshop covers finding a property; renting and housing benefits; debt and budgeting; and being a good neighbour. 

We provided M with a tablet to help him source accommodation on his release. He was able to get his ID documents with the support of his Probation Officer and the Prison service, as well as registering for Universal Credit. 

On release, we provided temporary hotel accommodation in the interim whilst his Advisor guided him to find somewhere permanent to live in his home area. The Local Authority offered M the rent deposit scheme and we put him in touch with a guarantor service. M was able to find a one bed flat and his application was accepted.  Our team were available to support M throughout the entire process, but the aim is to enable independence. 

We put people in contact with the right services and opportunities and provide practical support where needed. This example also demonstrates how finding accommodation must be a team effort. 

Providing accommodation support can be challenging. There is a lack of affordable housing and people naturally come with high expectations. There is also a great demand for support, and we have to prioritise those who are homeless or are most at risk of becoming homeless.  

According to the 2023 Bromley briefing (Prison Reform Trust), less than half (45%) of people released from prison between 2021–22 had settled accommodation on release. More than one in 10 (11%) were homeless or sleeping rough. After three months, under two-thirds (65%) had settled accommodation and 7% were homeless or sleeping rough. Having and retaining settled accommodation is “a key factor in successful rehabilitation” (HMIP). A recent study by inspectors revealed that people with settled accommodation on release were around two-thirds less likely to end up back in prison than those without. 

Going forward, we are keen to build relationships with more housing providers, including private landlords, as well as providers of wrap around services so that we can work in partnership to address the complex array of social and psychological issues that affect men and women who are experiencing homelessness. If you would like a chat about partnerships, please feel free to reach out to me!  

It is hard to really comprehend what it feels like to be homeless if it is not something you have experienced. How many of us have walked by people laying on a cold stone pavement without a second thought. It has become so much a part of our world that it is easy to become desensitised. But that makes the role of support service providers even more important.  

Finding someone a home and then supporting them to retain it is a hugely important, but challenging, job. It needs all agencies to work together, alongside local support services. Every individual story of success in securing someone a place to live so they can start rebuilding their life is worth it. It’s good for the individual, it’s good for society. We are committed to getting the best outcome for those that need it and continue our journey to build better lives and safer communities.  

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