Homelessness and rough sleeping: roundtable report

A participant in the MST4Life programme, which aims to build resilience among young people at risk of homelessness.

On 4 October 2019, the University of Birmingham convened a roundtable on the subject of homelessness, bringing together experts from academia, local government, the NHS and civil society. The session was chaired by Professor Andy Lymer in his role as Director of the Centre of Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM).

Recommendations

  • Repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824: This outdated legislation criminalises homeless people and makes it harder for them to access the support they need. Similarly, the use of PSPOs to clear the streets should be curtailed as this is counterproductive.

  • Trial a drug consumption room: Government should allow cities to trial specialist facilities where people can use drugs under medical supervision. Evidence from other European countries suggests this could reduce drug-related deaths and make the streets safer.

  • Invest in prevention services and long-term programmes: Funding is urgently needed for prevention services and long-term interventions that tackle the underlying causes of homelessness and rough sleeping.

  • Welfare reform: Changes to the welfare system have meant that more people are slipping through the cracks and becoming homeless. A review of the system needs to take place to stop this from happening.

  • Take steps to increase the number of affordable homes and bring down housing costs: The lack of affordable homes is a big driver of homelessness and needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

  • Use the 2022 Commonwealth Games to inspire social change: We should use the opportunity of hosting the games in Birmingham to deliver lasting benefit to all citizens, which includes homeless people. The authorities should avoid using heavy-handed measures to clear the streets, such as PSPOs. Instead, plans should be put in place to tackle the underlying causes of homelessness and improve the quality of life for people on the streets. With the eyes of the world on us, we can offer Birmingham as an example of how to address complex social issues using sport and the legacy of the games as a catalyst.

Participants
  • (Chair) Professor Andy Lymer, Director of CHASM, University of Birmingham
  • (Rapporteur) Jeremy Swan, Public Affairs Manager (Policy Impact), University of Birmingham
  • Janette Beckett, Director of Support Services and New Business, Spring Housing
  • Professor Nicholas Crowson, Professor of Contemporary British History, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Jenn Cumming, Reader, University of Birmingham
  • Rashid Ikram, Lead for Homelessness, Birmingham City Council
  • Carly Jones, Chief Executive, Sifa Fireside
  • Dr Sarah Marwick, Lead GP, The Homeless Health Exchange Primary Care Service; Associate Medical Director, NHS England/Improvement, Midlands
  • Dr Vibhu Paudyal, Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham
  • Thea Raisbeck, Honorary Research Associate, University of Birmingham; Associate, Spring Housing
  • Neelam Sunder, Programme Manager - Homelessness (Policy & Implementation), West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basils; Chair, West Midlands Homelessness Task Force
  • Geraldine Tsakirakis, Community Manager, Emmaus Coventry and Warwickshire

Download the full briefing