The Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board, established in 2019, has published its strategy outlining eight key priorities to tackle, and end, homelessness in Jersey.
The Jersey Homelessness Strategy published today (Monday 11th January 2021) has been developed in collaboration with representatives from social housing providers, third sector and private sector organisations and government departments. It follows research and surveys undertaken by a specialist housing consultant which detailed the scale of the widely unrecognised problem in the island.
The social and economic effects of Covid-19 have brought the issue of homelessness into even sharper focus. Many organisations have been working tirelessly to help people needing their support because they have nowhere else to go. The Strategy sets out a joined-up approach that builds on the great work that these organisations do and have done individually up until now. It aims to educate more people on the issues in order to benefit those who are affected by it.
What is homelessness?
Homelessness comes in many forms. Its most visible and concerning is rough sleeping. But the term also covers anyone having to stay with friends and family, or ‘sofa surfing’, or living in a hostel because they are unable to access suitable accommodation. It may also extend to those threatened with eviction or living somewhere unsafe.
Guy Le Maistre, Vice Chairman of The Shelter Trust, said: “At the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the demand for temporary or emergency shelter shot up rapidly, and there were too many people for the hostels to cope with and for people to be able to socially distance. Different organisations worked together to quickly find additional accommodation as a temporary solution. This was a real positive, but we need to have permanent measures in place to resolve the ongoing problem.”
Homelessness exists in Jersey, whether it’s in the obvious and visible form of rough sleeping or the less obvious challenges around access to housing, unsuitable or unsafe accommodation and the threat of eviction.
The vision is ending homelessness in Jersey. This means that:
- No one is sleeping rough.
- No one is forced to live in transient or dangerous accommodation such as tents and squats.
- No one is living in emergency accommodation, such as shelters and hostels, without a plan for rapid rehousing into affordable, secure and decent accommodation.
- No one is homeless as a result of leaving a state institution such as prison or the care system.
- Everyone at immediate risk of homelessness gets the help required to prevent it happening.
Simon Burgess, Independent Chair of the Board, said: “Becoming homeless is one of the worst things that can happen to someone, but it generally happens because of some other root cause, such as losing a job, a divorce, domestic abuse or other vulnerabilities including mental illness or substance abuse. Without these root causes being tackled the results can have a devastating impact not only on the individuals affected but also their ability to contribute to society and the economy.
“Our vision is ending homelessness in Jersey, which will be achieved through a focus on eight initial priorities that we have identified.”
The eight key priorities of the Jersey Homelessness Strategy are:
- Understand and define homelessness by providing a statutory definition and clear messages to promote a shared understanding of the issue.
- Evidence the scale and nature of the issue so that we can plan how to prevent and address it.
- Create a housing advice hub so that everyone knows where to go to get help.
- Establish a complex needs team to take responsibility for resolving the housing issues of the most vulnerable.
- Provide a housing safety net for all which is appropriate, flexible and able to meet the needs of everyone.
- Commissioning and regulation to ensure that housing-related support services are consistent and sustainable.
- Strengthen the role and supply of social housing to ensure that it is better able to meet housing need.
- Support private sector tenants and landlords to promote positive relationships.
The first priority is to establish a legal definition for homelessness under Jersey law. Unlike in the UK, there is currently no statutory definition therefore there are no reliable statistics to identify the scale of the issue. This is the second priority. With a statutory definition and statistical data it will then be possible for everyone to know how serious the issue is in Jersey as currently it remains widely misunderstood. The third priority is to create a central hub where people can go to for help if they are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
Simon commented: “If someone finds themselves homeless, there’s no central service where they can go in Jersey to find a solution to their housing needs like there is for medical services, for example. We have seen instances of extremely vulnerable people being placed into totally inappropriate accommodation, sometimes due to the lack of knowing of what to do. There has to be a better way.”
The Minister for Children and Housing, Deputy Jeremy Maçon, said: “The Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board is independent of Government, and provides the vital function of ensuring that the work of different groups is coordinated and directed towards tackling this hidden problem.
“The Board’s homelessness strategy sets out a framework for action. Officers have been closely involved in the strategy’s development and we will continue to work in collaboration with the Board, and the many other individuals and organisations involved in tackling homelessness to achieve its objectives. I am grateful to the Board for this detailed report and am pleased that the Government plan for 2021 includes actions to be taken during the year that are fully aligned to the Board’s priorities.”
The Board will continue to develop the Strategy and monitor and report on the progress towards the delivery of these priorities. Simon added: “We are delighted to be starting 2021 with a plan for positive change.”