More than 1,000 adults and children were “insecurely housed” at the end of 2021, and the Guernsey Community Foundation is now taking steps to provide stronger charitable support to those experiencing homelessness.
That figure represents a 47% increase on 2016 figures, which stood at 750. Data for 2022 is yet to be captured within the States’ Indicator of Poverty report.
The Foundation has now joined forces with Homeless Network Scotland (HNS), which has more than four decades experience dealing with homelessness prevention, to see if a dedicated homelessness charity would be of benefit.
HNS will undertake a fact-finding mission involving those with personal experience of housing insecurity before reporting back to the Foundation in the autumn with the possible duties, staffing, and funding requirements for a new charity.
The sixth-month project, entitled ‘At Home in Guernsey’, follows a 2022 report, published by the Foundation, which made recommendations to tackle and prevent homelessness in the island.
Any new charity would meet service gaps, which the Foundation argue are being undertaken by other third sector organisations simply because no one else is offering help.
It’s being funded by the charity Maison St Pierre, which also supported the Foundation’s report last year.
Pictured: Some have reported sleeping in their cars.
That report detailed how various third sector organisations, from 2021 onwards, were reporting increases of people with no fixed abode seeking assistance against a backdrop of a huge waiting list for social housing and crippling private rental costs for those with low incomes.
The emergency housing facility – St. Julian’s House – was also found to be unfit for purpose. The report, penned by social policy researcher Alex Lemon, recommended adopting a legal definition of homelessness and accelerating the build programme of social housing.
A launch summit was held on 3 May with dozens of professionals from charities and the public sector, such as housing officers, housing associations, community services, probation, and Citizens Advice.
There, it was identified that those issues are worsening, according to the Foundation’s Chief Executive Jim Roberts. He said stakeholders heard stories of people sleeping in garages, public toilets, and selling their possessions to meet rent payments.
“The figures published by the States show that in the five years to 2021, the number of people who are insecurely housed has increased by nearly 50%. The situation is getting worse, and more and more lives are being ruined,” he said.
“Whether you call it being ‘insecurely housed’ or ‘homeless’ or ‘at risk of becoming homeless’, anyone without affordable, secure, adequate accommodation is being caused harm. Unemployment, addiction, sickness, poor educational outcomes, social isolation – all these things become significantly more likely if you don’t have somewhere decent to live.”
But he welcomed a “really good start” in the States beginning to quantify the problem: “These figures are helpful in that regard. Tracking these numbers year to year also means we can measure the success, or otherwise, of new policies intended to reduce homelessness. We’ll also be able to measure the impact of any new housing charity."
Pictured: Tales were told of various individuals sleeping rough across the island.
Sir Richard Collas, the Foundation’s Chair, was pleased with the turnout at the summit: “This was first time so many experts had been brought together to discuss homelessness. The breadth of experience in the room was remarkable, as was the determination to address the problem."
Grant Campbell, Head of Partnerships & Consulting at HNS, added: "The launch of At Home in Guernsey marks an important step in a shared ambition to understand and respond to housing insecurity in Guernsey. Our job is to help develop potential solutions with the Foundation, identify the challenge, and draw on the strengths and assets that Guernsey already has to hand.
“We were met with a high level of knowledge and commitment alongside a stronger consensus than expected on the scale of the task ahead and the collaborative approach needed to meet the challenge."
Artwork by Ems Le Tocq
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