Homes For The Homeless: Mission Impossible Or Impossible Missionaries?

astronaut, rover, landing module and flag on the moon
At one time we thought a mission to the moon was impossible. Is this really easier than ending homelessness?

In the United Kingdom, COVID-19 has demonstrated the awesome power of a government with a clear objective and the means to achieve it. Under the direction of the national government, most of the nation’s homeless were removed from the streets and placed into housing within days.

Into temporary housing.

Now there at least appears to be the will to consider a phase two, keeping the homeless in housing. Will this be ‘Mission Impossible?’ Or will it be an exercise for ‘Missionaries for the Impossible’ — government functionaries assigned the task of demonstrating all the obstacles that make housing the homeless a pipe dream that is far too expensive and impractical and simply cannot be achieved?

Certainly a long term solution is daunting. It ultimately would seem to depend on the existence of more social housing. But decades of deliberately dumping the nation’s stock of affordable housing leaves waiting lists everywhere, in some places many thousands of people long.

Are people who are homeless to jump to the head of the queue, displacing those who have been waiting years, even decades, for a home?

Can more social housing be built quickly? Certainly not using Public Private Partnerships, which require hundreds of market rate houses only to produce mere handfuls of social housing.

And as seems is always the case in such discussions, there is the unmentioned elephant in the room, familiar to all social workers whose task it is to support people who are homeless as they transition to permanent housing. ‘Housing First’ sums up the problem by its very name.1 Housing First . . . and then?

Nevertheless there would seem to be a will in the UK to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a springboard to end homelessness permanently. Read more in Local Government Chronicle: Councils Embark On Mission Impossible: Finding Permanent Homes For Rough Sleepers

For those who might consider even the most temporary housing to be unimportant in the life a person who is homeless, consider this article from The Guardian: ‘I Might Have Died If They Hadn’t Rescued Me’: Life Inside The New Hotels For The Homeless

Footnotes

  1. For more on Housing First and its success, try: What Is Housing First? Why Is It So Popular?

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