The problem of homelessness has always existed, but in recent years it has only seemed to grow. Indeed, according to a BBC article, homelessness has steadily risen for the past seven years. However, England has decided to care for the less fortunate and do something about homelessness.
The article, published August 12, said England’s government has pledged to end homelessness within its borders by 2027 and has proffered £100 million to fund the Rough Sleeping Strategy, as the new program is called.
A largely marginalized community, people who struggle with homelessness are often ignored, and many programs that attempt to help homeless people are ill-equipped to actually get someone off the street. This stems partly from people’s ignorance in knowing how to end the problem of homelessness–it can feel like bailing out a boat with a teaspoon. Many people get discouraged by the vastness of the issue and are too overwhelmed to even try to do anything about it.
Having worked in programs that try to assist homeless people and others who struggle with day-to-day stability, I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for people to break the cycle of homelessness. Serving a meal or offering a bed helps people to get through the next day – and certainly there is a continued need for such programs. Yet those programs only take care of the immediate need, and homelessness itself is more of a long-term problem.
The RAND Corporation’s research on homelessness has named several common problems that lead up to or perpetuate this problem: mental illness, economic loss, substance abuse and deteriorating physical health among other things. Many programs offer assistance in the form of a meal or a bed for the night, but the deep-seated issues causing homelessness cannot be fixed with a single hot meal.
This is why the Rough Sleeping Strategy proposes to offer support to prevent people from becoming homeless, as well as working with those who are already living on the street. Around £30 million will be spent on training and treatment plans for two major causes of continued homelessness – mental illness and substance abuse. People who deal with mental illness and substance abuse are often pushed to the side, but these people still matter.
Regardless of whatever situation brought them into homelessness, people have value. And it is the responsibility of the more fortunate to help those who are dealing with homelessness.
The leaders of this movement acknowledge that the Rough Sleeping Strategy is not a complete fix for the problem of homelessness in England. Current Prime Minister Theresa May said homelessness is a “complex issue” which cannot be fixed overnight.
“As well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, we have to deal with underlying problems and ultimately help people turn their lives around,” May said in the BBC article.
Another RAND study found that even after obtaining housing, many people who had been homeless still went without food, felt socially isolated or dealt with major health problems. Clearly, housing itself is not the only obstacle. To have real success getting people off the streets and into a more stable life, these programs must be able to assist people long-term in their day-to-day lives.
England sets an example for other countries by valuing an extremely marginalized community in a practical, well-planned way. Other countries could benefit from observing what happens to the homeless population in England in the coming years. The Rough Sleeping Strategy, whether it is successful or not, could spark a movement to help homeless people around the world.
I do not know if England will succeed in ending homelessness in a decade. It is an admirable goal, but an ambitious one. However, I do know that England is taking powerful steps to care for people. All people.
And that is what it comes down to: Will you care for people? Will you care for someone who has made choices you disagree with, or who has dealt with circumstances you cannot understand? Will you love your neighbor, even if your neighbor lives in his parked car and sits on the corner asking for change?
Homelessness is a problem that needs to be resolved with kindness and care, rather than ignored. England is doing something about it. Other countries need to find that same compassion and follow suit.