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Housing and Homelessness

(Including the Homeless Community and Supporting People)

Introduction

Although Wales has a proportionally higher amount of social housing (provided by local authorities and housing associations), this is more than offset by the higher deprivation and unemployment levels than in the rest of the UK.

We welcome the Welsh Government’s White Paper on Housing, published in May 2012, which has shown a commitment to housing as a high priority.

Priorities

Housing Policy

Priority A - Housing Quality Standards

Funding levels are sufficient to enable social housing providers to deliver on their obligation to bring their homes up to standard (otherwise known as the Welsh Housing Quality Standard).

Priority B - Community Focused Housing

Housing provision should:

  1. Be linked with a holistic view of community, providing housing that is accessible to employment, education and welfare provisions, tying in with provision of employment opportunities of various sizes (as encouraged in the employment groups manifesto points).
  2. Encourage development of community assets other than property so that finance can be invested (with returns) into communities and community enterprise. This is preferable to focusing on rented property: housing built to meet people’s need rather than investment portfolios. Refurbishment of existing housing stock should also be explored.
  3. Include flexible housing stock that can be used to meet the needs of single people and families. Homes should have sufficient space to allow for estranged parents to have access to families, for children to pursue education and for carers to support needy family members, for people with differing physical needs to be housed in an integrated way.

Priority C - Housing and Faith Communities

  1. Establish and maintain a link between policy makers and the faith communities in each local authority by the appointment of Faith Liaison Officers.
  2. Promote meaningful tenant involvement and reach out to faith groups to provide “added value” in housing and related support services.
  3. To establish a Church Land & Property Service in Wales, to enable churches to release surplus land and buildings specifically for housing use, so to build up an accessible land bank which should speed up new house-building.

Services for the Homeless Community

Priority D - Resettlement Support

  1. Homelessness is in many ways a form of institutionalisation and many of its community have spent much time in institutions, e.g. the armed forces, mental health institutions (not as numerous now as in previous decades), the prison system, and the child care system. Early prevention of homelessness in the first place should be developed through better preparation for life after institutions and support in resettlement.
  2. Resettlement services and appropriate counselling should be seen as key to providing sustainable housing options alongside preparation and support to enable homeless people to make the transition into housing. This has proved to be the case in housing initiatives in previous decades such as the HMII (Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative in London) Sufficient resources should be made available to enable the development of resettlement services throughout Wales.

Priority E - Resettlement in Local Communities

All homeless services should be based upon the local community enabling resettlement to occur within that locality where the homeless person might enjoy the benefits of family support and not be drawn into the larger cities by the need to survive. This will mean the provision of local preventative services, hostels and resettlement not the present sparsely populated network of hostels that removes the homeless community from their locality. Homeless people need, where possible, to be re-housed near to community and familial support.

Priority F - Homeless Community Support

  1. Support should provide connected services for the homeless community via the development of consortia (groupings of statutory and voluntary agencies collaboratively working with the homeless community).
  2. Local authorities should give, in both principle and practice, support to initiatives such as soup runs, food hamper provision etc. (many of which are Christian based in co-operation with statutory community agencies). These services are intended to provide short term and immediate relief to those of the most disadvantaged in our society.
  3. The provision of advice and prevention services as well as tenancy sustainment work, possibly provided by church community initiatives.

Priority G - Correctly Identifying the Full Homeless Need   

Statistics should be collated to identify all types of homeless people including sofa surfers and then recognising in policies that all kinds of homeless people are vulnerable and not just certain more narrow categories. A homeless individual’s circumstances should be investigated fully and not dismissed if needs are found.

Supporting People

Priority H - Support the Most Needy.

Ensure that the most disadvantaged members of our society are properly supported by the ring fencing of All Wales Supporting People funding, to ensure that high quality services are provided for the most needy groups.

Priority I – Reduce Red Tape in the Supporting People Regime

Exempt sheltered housing for older people providers from the Supporting People regime (making up shortfalls from housing benefit) so to relieve them of the associated red tape and bureaucracy. Then housing providers can concentrate on building more homes and providing a better service to their residents.

Christian Context

Within his earthly ministry Jesus experienced the vulnerability of homelessness

Mat 8:20 And Jesus said to him, the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

Within the Christian faith there is a strong tradition of hospitality towards strangers and those without shelter as a way of including and embracing those who have been excluded by circumstances, such as the shortage of affordable and adequate housing. In doing this we fulfil our call as disciples and in many ways we are serving God (Matt 25:32-40).

Throughout the history of the housing movement Christians have been at the forefront of bringing about progress with examples like Octavia Hill, an early pioneer in social housing. This ministry has continued within Housing Associations and projects alongside the homeless communities.  Christians continue to work in partnership with government and local authorities and through this manifesto to support and influence on-going progress.

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