Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 23rd December 2015

Christmas is upon us and whether or not this time of year holds religious significance for you, or even if your friends regard you as the Grinch of their group, I hope everyone enjoys the next few days spending time with those they care about and recharging their batteries for the year to come.

On the council front there’s much to report following several recent government announcements, but they’ll keep till next year and rather than bringing up politics I’d like to cover something I know is on many people’s minds this time of year: homelessness.

I’ve had a lot of emails recently from residents concerned for those sleeping rough in the town centre. Councils have a legal duty to re-house anyone unintentionally homeless with a local connection in their area, that includes those sleeping rough. In the event someone arrives in Crawley without a local connection, their previous local council will still have an obligation to help re-house them.

If someone is sleeping rough in Crawley it is not because no one will house them—although the UK’s housing crisis and ongoing loss of council housing does make it much harder, it’s because solving homelessness is about much more than just putting a roof over someone’s head.

Living on the street is tough and has consequences. One survey suggested that as many as 80% of those suffering from homelessness may also have a mental health issue and almost the same numbers dealing with some form of substance abuse. Having been through so much people don’t always want to engage and sometimes their lives aren’t in a place where they can hold down a tenancy.

In Crawley we’re fortunate to have fantastic charities, such as Crawley Open House and St Mungo’s Broadway, who work with the council to reach out to the local homeless and get them into a position where they can be re-housed. While as a country we must do much more to tackle the causes and consequences of homelessness, at least in Crawley support does exist to help deal with the symptoms.

A Merry Christmas to all.

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