Euan Trower is an A-level student from Devon.
With money tight and funding hard to come by for government departments, the announcement from Theresa May for a £100 million fund to tackle homelessness in the UK (which has been on the rise for seven consecutive years) has raised many eyebrows
Voices from across all angles questioning how much of an impact the fund will have. But while the difference this funding makes is yet to be seen, the irrefutable fact is that whatever your opinion, action has been taken, which is a welcome start.
There are many aspects of the homelessness cycle which traps the individuals involved in a continually downward spiral, unable to re-enter normal society. Even if they manage to escape, it’s very easy to be sucked back in, which is why it is imperative that funding be focused on achieving a permanent fix.
The most crippling factor in being homeless is the lack of an address because without one, it’s impossible for someone to gain access to almost any form employment or claim benefits, with the little cash-in-hand employment available leaving individuals vulnerable to exploitation.
For young people who’ve been forced to leave home, it prevents them from re-gaining access to some form of education, making them near unemployable and thus unable to gather enough money to raise themselves out of their situation, further adding to the ruthless cycle.
This is why hostels are not enough, as often the people using the service cannot put down the hostel as their address, while the nature and environment of them deters young people, in particular, from using them.
To defeat issues such as homelessness, what’s needed is a pragmatic, coherent plan of action which can provide a safe, secure space for young homeless people in particular to settle, in order to begin the process of reintroducing normality into their lives.
In the grand scheme of things, £100 million isn’t a lot of money, yet for the estimated 4,751 people sleeping rough on any given night, it could be an escape route and the gateway to a better life. In order to maximise the reach of this funding, this is my solution, which I’m working with a local charity to try and make happen.
Pod hotels are found everywhere across Asia, and consist simply of blocks of sleeping capsules, each of which contain a bed along with a TV, lighting, and a small amount of storage space. The capsules are cheap to purchase and are long lasting, easy to transport, and can be arranged and stacked in multiple fashions to suit the layout of the building.
My proposition is to set up a scheme in which charities can work with local authorities, establishing these mobile capsule centres in otherwise unused properties such as shops and office blocks. The charities can provide the necessary infrastructure and support through their experienced staff, many of whom know the majority of people within their local homeless community, to help vulnerable young people back into education or employment.
Unlike with hostels, residencies would be long term, giving these young people a permanent address and place of security, while the nature of the capsule means that not only do they have a place to sleep, but a pod spacious enough to store some possessions and have a defined area to call their own for as long as they need it.
While a capsule is no substitute for a home, it very definitely is a substitute for a damp sleeping bag in a shop doorway.
The continuous presence of staff allows for ongoing support, with the benefit that the scheme would be orchestrated and run by charities, thus requiring minimal involvement and investment from local authorities.
This would mean that a one-off injection of funding would establish a permanent scheme of assistance which could continue to function through the donations of charitable people.
The nature of the capsules also allows for charities to respond quickly to sudden demand, such as the particularly cold winter we’ve just experienced, with the centres able to be assembled, dis-assembled and then reassembled in any location with toilet and shower facilities.
While there will doubtlessly be parts of my proposed solution which need to be revisited, the idea is nevertheless in my opinion a step in the right direction.