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Sleeping uneasy

 
March 10th 2011
 


Homelessness in Birmingham has risen by 140 per cent since January 2010, according to recent research from the YMCA.

The recession, a rise in family break-ups and a growing shortage of emergency accommodation are seen as having contributed to the startling increase.

Birmingham Christian Homeless Forum is keen to build on the YMCA's research by undertaking further fieldwork to get a clearer picture, and is hoping to carry out an unofficial "rough sleeper count". The last official count reported only nine rough sleepers, though anecdotal evidence from outreach teams suggests that number could now be as high as 20 or 30.

The extensive cutbacks nationwide have undoubtedly affected the services for the homeless in Birmingham. As government funding continues to dry up, organisations are struggling to accommodate the rising demand and need for services. Severe reductions in Supporting People (SP) funding have had the most substantial impact within Birmingham. Many schemes now support low-risk users only; others have been forced to close completely.

SIFA Fireside, a charity working with people who misuse alcohol, stopped running its six-bed wet hostel and its 21-bed dry hostel last year as a result of cuts in SP funding. Closures such as these make it increasingly difficult for services to refer people on to emergency accommodation.

Homeless young adults are of particular concern, with recent figures revealing that more than one in 10 of the 723 homeless applications lodged in the city in July was by 16- and 17-year-olds. However, the YMCA hopes to help tackle this situation with a new multi-million pound development in Erdington, comprising 83 self-contained flats, a nursery, a community hall, youth centre and meeting rooms. Additionally, the YMCA is looking to expand some of its current sites in an attempt to meet the service need.

Alan Fraser, the chief executive of Birmingham YMCA, said: "In response to a desperate shortage of accommodation for single homeless people, especially the young and most vulnerable, Birmingham YMCA is now looking to increase capacity at one of our sites by a further 20 rooms. However, these spaces do not currently receive any Supporting People funding, and so the range of services that we can offer will be limited.

"Demand is higher than ever... The situation is now so severe that we're having to open up these rooms in order to meet unprecedented demand. However, without ongoing revenue funding, this is not a sustainable solution long-term."

With the funding landscape so uncertain, more reliance is put upon fundraising and sponsorship to finance not only the expansion but ultimately the continuation of such services. Last month, the YMCA hosted a sponsored "sleep out" fundraising event as part of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week. People sheltering in cardboard boxes slept outside in car parks to raise awareness and funds for their local YMCA as part of the national 'Sleep Easy' campaign. In spite of freezing temperatures, over 80 people joined the sleep out which raised over £4,000.

 
 
 

March 2011

 

Contents

From frumpy to funky: "Fab pads" launch nationwide with style

Government action needed to address youth homelessness rise

Public help bring empty homes back into service

Ethical caf?© gives homeless chance to make a change

Sleeping uneasy

Changes to Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau

SIFA Fireside holds memorial service

New service user led forum

Diamonds in the Rough art exhibition

Cannock church shelter discussions

Westminster plan ban

Update on Poncho?

Detail on the Hub

Second phone count

Winter shelters follow the pack

Funding nothing new

Ex-rough sleeper up for literary prize

Reading police seek help in murder

Tent city recognised in Seattle

HRH at Arlington hostel

Zulu council in London

Squats for rent?

Debut album with royal backing

Heroin drought

Homeless to Harvard

Street Shield 20: Home again!

 

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© Copyright 2009-2014 The Pavement. Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656 Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760 ISSN (online) 1757-0484