Charity chief: house-hunters and homeless ‘united in misery’

Croydon’s leading homelessness charity is fiercely critical of the failure to provide any truly affordable housing, reports BARRATT HOLMES

People without homes and people priced out of the housing market are both suffering from the same social problem and are “united in misery”.

That’s according to Croydon Nightwatch, the homelessness charity which staged its annual meeting this week.

Charity chair Jad Adams told the meeting that the high levels of homelessness and astronomical house prices locally are “two sides of the same coin”.

“There is no obvious connection between homelessness and our over-priced housing market. After all, if someone is street homeless or living in a hostel, it should be immaterial whether a flat in Croydon costs £50,000 to buy or half a million, he still couldn’t afford it,” Adams said.

“However, the connectedness of our society means there is a close relationship between the homeless individual in the hostel and the young professionals who cannot attain the first rung of the ‘housing ladder’. People who in the last century would have bought a single bedroomed flat are now priced out of even this modest accommodation. A couple who are both working at a starting salary find they can’t buy as their parents did, and they rent.

“Landlords look to this market of young working people and tart up properties which otherwise might be available to people on low incomes, on zero-hour contracts or on benefits. Places which were previously available for the poor are now being let to couples with two incomes. It is not so much a shortage of housing we suffer from, but a shortage of available housing.

Croydon Nightwatch chairman Jad Adams

“The people with the least resources are the ones who become homeless; we see them as clients of Nightwatch. Their situations are very different, but they are united in misery with much better off people who are suffering under a distorted housing market.

“Croydon Council’s Public Health Report last year shows that from 2014 to 2017 the number of homeless people in the borough increased by 22 per cent. The council is able to help families with children and those with the most severe medical needs, they were able to help 3,137 households who presented as homeless.

“Nightwatch does not have a lot to do with families, we mainly work with the single homeless for whom there is very little provision. More than a third: 35 per cent did not fit the strict criteria to be entitled to help. These were mainly adult men, though as Nightwatch has been reporting for a few years now, the proportion of women in the single homeless community has been increasing.

“These single homeless people end up sofa surfing, living in squats or in grotesquely overcrowded accommodation.

“The introduction of Universal Credit has meant there is a delay in benefit payments, which increases poverty. Draconian benefit sanctions for small infringements of the rules leave some people without any income at all and reliant on the help Nightwatch can give.”

The 2018 Nightwatch annual report is here

For more about Croydon Nightwatch, visit their website here

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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