Imagine this: due to the breakdown in your relationship and business partnership, you descend into debt, and then find yourself in rent arrears. Helpless to do anything about the debt and arrears you are then evicted from your home. You end up homeless on the street with your three children. The local Council initially views you as intentionally homeless and therefore not eligible for re-housing help. This is what happened this year to a local Nottingham woman.
She told us her story at the Health and Wellbeing Board’s Stakeholder Network meeting at Carlton’s Richard Herrod Centre on Nov 10th. She said that what had happened to her could have happened to any of the 70 odd people sitting in the hall.
I don’t think that there was anybody in the hall who was not shocked by the appalling implications of that statement.
The subject of the event was homelessness, and its impact on people’s physical and mental ill-health. It had been prompted by a Public Health paper on this issue that had come to the Nottinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board last year.
At that meeting Healthwatch had pointed out that the paper, whilst describing well the impact on ill-health of homelessness, it made no reference to the County Council proposal to radically cut the Supporting People budget. It’s the Supporting People budget that funds the homelessness direct access hostels across the County.
A key part of the safety net designed to help homeless people in Nottinghamshire was about to be removed. In the discussion that followed the Board rightly decided to reconsider the homelessness paper in more detail at a later event. Thus the organisation of this Stakeholder Network meeting on Monday night, 10th Nov.
The meeting was well attended with some 70 people from voluntary sector organisations, District Council homelessness staff, Housing Associations, commissioners, Public Health staff, and Healthwatch.
The speakers included a Nottingham GP whose surgery opens its doors to homeless people, Housing Dept staff from Newark and Sherwood and Mansfield District Councils, and a speaker from the national charity, Homeless Link. We learnt more about the causes of homelessness, and the dire impact on health and wellbeing of being homeless. Most importantly, we discussed and raised suggestions of what can be done locally to help prevent homelessness.
You can now see the details of those suggestions on the Healthwatch Nottinghamshire website http://www.healthwatchnottinghamshire.co.uk/?attachment_id=2073
These ideas should now be used as a guide to the health and social care community’s future plans to tackle the scourge of homelessness.