Opinion: Government must commit to helping us keep people housed

Camden councillor Nadia Shah. Picture: Camden Council

Camden councillor Nadia Shah. Picture: Camden Council - Credit: Camden Council

It’s clear the effects of the pandemic are sadly hitting some residents harder than others, and that for them this isn’t just a national crisis but a personal one too.

Recent and tragic world events and the heart-breaking death of George Floyd have also highlighted that people are facing injustices every day. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those calling for an end to racism and inequality in Camden and around the world.

This continues to be a tough period for us all, but even more so for those who are already facing hardship. It’s incredibly sad to see rough sleepers in Camden; they are some of the most vulnerable residents in our society and we’re determined to prevent them returning to our streets.

The council, alongside our partners, have been working hard to provide the highest possible protection and support for rough sleepers during this crisis. Together we’ve accommodated nearly 200 people who were previously sleeping rough since the start of lockdown and worked to ensure those living in hostels with shared facilities could move to safer accommodation. In addition to the council’s 675-bed adult hostel pathway, which is at full capacity, we’ve also secured over 200 extra beds to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers since the start of this crisis.

We’ve also used this opportunity to set up specialist provision at a local hotel, to bring together mental health, physical health and substance misuse services to work side-by-side and better meet the needs of those in our services. We’ve seen how successful this service has been and we’re planning to roll out similar arrangements across our supported housing services in the future.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide people with a route out of homelessness for good, but we can’t do this without meaningful financial support from the government. As we work to move people on from temporary emergency accommodation, people are continuing to arrive on our streets – some recently made homeless by the economic impact of Covid-19, and whilst national commitments to funding have been made, we urgently need confirmation of additional resources so that longer term housing solutions can be organised.

Although the coronavirus is creating new challenges for us, our vision for Camden as a place has always been that no-one gets left behind, and every day we’re working hard to ensure this vision is embedded in how we respond to this outbreak. Part of this work is to take vital action to address the unequal impacts of Covid-19 on our Black, Asian and minority communities. The coronavirus pandemic has uncovered major health inequalities in our society, and in response the council implemented a working group to gather evidence of the impacts and develop actions to support our residents during this time and beyond. We’re committed to ensuring we have a real detailed analysis of disproportionality that exists in our communities and will be shortly releasing interim findings from the working group.

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Our mission is to support our most vulnerable residents through this challenging time, and we will do everything in our power to do so now and after this pandemic.

Cllr Nadia Shah is Camden’s cabinet member for safer communities.