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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Catholic housing chief highlights link between homelessness and poverty
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¬†New Housing Minister Caroline Flint has indicated that public housing provision should be linked to a individual's ability to work and earn a living. But Housing Justice chief executive Alison Gelder says the real question she should be looking at is the link between homelessness and poverty. "It is a scandal that in a country as rich as Britain more than 1 in 5 of the population live under the poverty line." she said. "Some 12.7 million (22 per cent) of people live below the poverty line in the UK, which is defined by the government and European Union as less than 60 per cent of the median income figure. The median income for 2005/6 was £363 a week (£18,876 a year). 60 per cent of the median figure is £217 a week. "I recently attended an event that marked the 120 people who had died due to homelessness in London and the south-east over the past year. It is incredible that people are dying due to homelessness in a country that boasts the fifth largest economy in the world. A lot of poor people have become invisible. It is a society increasingly divided along wealth lines with many not aware that people nearby are living in poverty. This applies at Church as well. Many are unaware if someone does not 'look poor. It can be a shameful thing to admit. "Children have been hit particularly hard by homelessness. It is amazing what children will do to protect their parents from the consequences of being poor, like not mentioning things like school trips because they know the family cannot afford it. "This year Housing Justice and Church Action on Poverty, Scottish Churches Housing Action and the Church Urban Fund combined to run more than 100 poverty hearings across the country during Poverty and Homelessness Action Week (26 January to 3 February 2008). We felt it was a good way to make the link between homelessness and poverty. The aims were to gather information about poverty from the grass roots and stimulate action at local and national level to address the problems. "These initial faith based hearings led the way to a national campaign against poverty that will bring in other charities like Oxfam, Shelter, Christian Aid, Tearfund, the trade unions and grass roots groups. The overall aim is to replicate the Make Poverty History type campaign - mounted a couple of years ago to highlight poverty in the Third World ≠ at home. The intention behind the campaign is to get all the political parties to commit to end poverty and then hold them to their promises. "Housing has been an issue that has moved up the political agenda. At Housing Justice we'd like to see homes being provided for the 87,000 homeless families living in temporary accommodation across England and Wales. "The decent homes standard should also be applied to public sector housing provision to be extended to the private sector plus homes to be provided for the 1.7 million people on council waiting lists. These new houses need to be of the right type to meet housing need with infrastructure like transport systems, health provision and community facilities provided. "If things are just left unplanned to the market then there is every chance of more of the type of unhelpful development seen in inner cities where luxury apartments are built as investments and then often left empty. This not only deprives people of homes but also destroys communities. Churches can argue for the right type of development in their areas. "There is a real chance for the Church to play an active role in tackling homelessness in a practical way. Church assets can be used for social housing. Redundant presbyteries and churches that close down can provide prime sites that can be used for social housing. Providing work no doubt has a key role to play in reducing homelessness but the two must come together as part of an overall poverty reduction strategy. It is no good to make housing dependent on work or via versa. "
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