Croydon: Affordable housing is not as important as the homeless

By - Friday 1st May, 2015

Jonny Rose uncovers the burning issue that, he says, our politicians are ignoring

They say that “home is where the heart is” – but the saying surely rings rings hollow for the men and women that are sleeping rough or are in long-term ‘temporary’ accommodation every night in Croydon.

As I have written before, we are desperately short of affordable homes. Understandably, renting and ownership are leading election issues but something incredibly important is missing from the debate – the homeless. We hear a lot about homes but we hear next to nothing about the people forced to sleep on the streets, in hostels and squats or on the sofas of friends and family. For these people, house-building alone can never be enough and home ownership is a distant dream.

Croydon has a homelessness problem

My knowledge of Croydon’s homelessness problem is – admittedly – quite limited.

My firsthand experience comes from Thursday nights when the families from my church (Grace Vineyard) invite Purley’s homeless into their homes for a meal, and from gingerly engaging with one particularly zany homeless couple that attends each Sunday. Beyond that, hearing anecdotes from friends who run Croydon Churches Floating Shelter and reading about Croydon’s other relief agencies in the papers are my direct line to the experiences of Croydon’s neediest.

Regardless, you don’t have to be literally in the gutter, polling opinion from the ‘great unwashed’ to realise that there is a homelessness problem. And having previously wondered before what solutions there are – whether civic or technological – to help the homeless in Croydon, I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer has to be primarily a political response.

Croydon’s homeless people are being ignored

It’s easy for homeless people to feel invisible and ignored. And in the pre-election housing debate, the situation is little different. The Lyons Housing Review reveals the latest thinking from the Labour party, and while its commitments on housebuilding are welcome, it is disappointingly quiet about homelessness. (Damningly, I couldn’t find anything on the topic of housing from the Conservative Party more current than this 2009 ‘green paper’).

It’s not that supply isn’t important – it certainly is. The lack of affordable housing has contributed to rising homelessness and the next government must take bold steps to redress this issue. We need measures to increase affordable supply and policies to tackle the growing industry of those who profit from developers avoiding building low-cost homes.

However, we need to address the issue of access as well as supply. Too many homeless people are having the door slammed in their face, leaving them with nowhere to turn. As this research by Crisis shows, homeless people going to their councils for help are being turned away with no choice but to sleep on the streets. The reason? They are not a priority under the law, meaning that the council has no duty to help them with housing.

This is scandalous: if we are talking about housing, then we have to ask why so many homeless people cannot get the help they need to find a place to live. Affordable homes in Croydon are crucial, but the council needs to make sure that homeless people can benefit from them, too.

The next Croydon Central MP needs to talk about homelessness, not affordable housing

Despite their favoured phrase, the current Croydon Labour council’s plans distinctly lack “ambition” when it comes to provision for the homeless. From the outset, their ‘Ambitious for Croydon’ manifesto contained little reference to the borough’s dispossessed; only twice across thirty pages are references made to Croydon’s homeless people. Consequently, the onus is now on Croydon’s MPs to sound the alarm at a national level. Sadly, it’s too late for general election manifesto commitments from Croydon’s political parties to improve the help that homeless people are legally entitled to, but it’s never too late to raise the profile of this issue.

There is a clear political consensus on the need for more affordable housing. Great. But there’s a lot more to housing than just bricks and mortar. Everyone needs a place to call home. Nobody should be forced to sleep on the streets. That’s why, if politicians start talking about housing, we must make sure that they don’t forget those who don’t have it.

When we build houses in Croydon, everyone should have the chance to benefit.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Bernadette Fallon

    It’s an important issue and maybe one a lot of us ignore as we get caught up in house price and ‘gentrification’ discussions – thanks for raising it

  • David Callam

    I hate to say it Jonny, but there are no votes in homelessness and that’s all these grasping politicians care about. Also, they have even less understanding of the homeless than the rest of us.
    You may recall the last Tory council tried to move the Nightwatch operation from the Queen’s Gardens in central Croydon because its presence might reduce the value of the flats being developed by the council and its partners to replace Taberner House.

  • RoughSleeper

    “My knowledge of Croydon’s homelessness problem is – admittedly – quite limited.”

    OK! Then read the blogs of others that have written on this subject for a long time.

    You will learn much. Most subjects have been discussed.

    The knowledge is there to be taken.

    Within the blogs are links to other blogs, more blog links will be put in as time allows.

    Good reading.

    (8.5320 x 10K hours, Boots On the ground, @ 1.5809 pence/day)