Tackling and preventing the rise in homelessness is a key objective within Riverside’s new corporate plan. Nationally, homelessness has more than doubled in the last five years and in some cities, such as Manchester, it has increased almost ten-fold over the same period.
Riverside Care and Support have a long history of working with people who are homeless, we are the third largest provider of services in the country. Last year we worked with 11,000 people who had experienced homeless or were at risk of becoming homeless, supporting 5,000 to move into permanent accommodation. Our customers include; rough sleepers, young people, people with substance misuse or mental health issues, and armed forces veterans. All these people are individuals with different circumstances and aspirations. They do, however, have one thing in common, they are all struggling to secure and sustain appropriate accommodation.
Crisis research says the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 47 years, which is 32 years less than an average male and 35 years less than an average female in the UK, according to the latest ONS statistics. Rough sleepers are six times more likely to attend A&E, are admitted to hospital four times as often and stay three times as long as the housed population.
The question is therefore, what can we do to improve this endemic problem amongst the homeless population?
Through our new corporate plan we have set out our case. We are keen to work with partners to develop more solutions, such as the ‘Housing First’ model, and we recognise council budgets are continually being squeezed. In response, we have set up our own Social Impact Fund to enable us to expand the work we do and deliver on a payment by results basis.
A diverse range of issues contributes to the growing problem of homelessness. Welfare reform, private sector rents and tenancy issues are just some of the factors resulting in more single people and families losing their homes. Providing a roof over a person’s head is just one aspect of combatting homelessness. Helping people to access bank accounts, employment, the internet, and volunteering are all key ways we can support independence.
Through our corporate plan, Riverside Care and Support aim to:
- be a flexible partner of choice for commissioners
- help customers be independent, healthy and active for longer
- continue to build person-led local pathways and networks.
Our innovative Active Customer Engagement (ACE) tools will be used to increase customers’ skills and confidence and maximise connectedness and inclusion in the following areas:
Digital: Relevant kit – laptops / tablets; WIFI access for all.
Social: Volunteering – work experience, shared knowledge, route to work.
Health: Health and wellbeing programmes, registering with health providers.
Finance: Advice and training in money management.
Housing: Removing barriers – deposits, routes to access, Housing First model.
Colleagues across the business are enthusiastic and determined to rise to the challenge of reducing homelessness by helping our customers to have a better and brighter future. We just need your help to steer us in the right direction and hopefully the Stakeholder Strategy Day will give us the opportunity to begin discussions.
John is Executive Director of Care and Support
Simon is Director of Business Development
 Housing First is an approach that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, after the accommodation is in place, it then provides the supportive services and connections to the community-based supports people need to keep their housing and avoid a return to homelessness.