The first elections for the new unitary Buckinghamshire Council happen in May 2021. We are calling on all candidates to ensure tackling homelessness is a part of their manifesto.

Here, we set out ours:

Homelessness is extremely harmful, unnecessary and costly to societies that choose to allow it.

In the year before the Covid-19 pandemic, more people in Buckinghamshire were sleeping rough than in Liverpool and Kingston upon Hull combined[1].

There is much more to homelessness than rough sleeping, but these devastating figures, each one a person, showed that something was wrong.

The problem of homelessness looked and felt intractable having been on the rise for a decade.

In March 2020, everything changed.

As the coronavirus pandemic hit, the UK government asked local authorities and charities like Wycombe Homeless Connection, to end rough sleeping in just two days. This initiative was christened ‘Everyone In’. We achieved the call, moving everyone who we were already sheltering into emergency accommodation where they could self-isolate.

And, in Buckinghamshire we haven’t looked back. No one has been left with no choice but to sleep rough since.

A quote, attributed to Nelson Mandela, is pertinent: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

In Bucks, we have taken a leap forward in tackling homelessness and we did it far quicker than perhaps anyone had realised was possible. It took concerted effort, dedicated partnership working, a sense of urgency, and sadly, a public health emergency.

Additionally, evictions have been banned for most of the last year, ostensibly as a public health measure. There is no doubt that banning evictions saved lives as people did not end up on the street, where they would have been unable to stay at home and stay safe.

Our concern now is the huge backlog of evictions that has built up. There is potential for a significant increase in people losing their homes when the current ban ends.  

Studies have shown that one in seven adults[2] are worried they will lose their home as a result of this pandemic.

This means around 60,000 adults in Buckinghamshire fear they might become homeless.

Due to great partnerships, dedication and compassion, in Buckinghamshire we’re certainly much closer to our goal that any homelessness is only rare and brief.

There are huge challenges ahead but we face them in a better position than we were in a year ago.

Now is the time to decide our next steps and so we are calling on all candidates in these elections to commit to:

  • Find a way to make the ‘Everyone In’ principle permanent and sustainable in Buckinghamshire. That means anyone found to be sleeping rough will be quickly offered emergency accommodation.

  • Put a strategy in place to ensure that no one loses their home as a result of this pandemic.

  • Ensure there is a safe way for people experiencing domestic violence to avoid homelessness by excluding the perpetrator from their home and/or having safe accessible accommodation.

  • Develop a service to direct help to people facing ‘risky transitions’ in life, where the risk of homelessness is high (such as leaving care). We know that acting before someone finds themselves in a crisis is best so we need to build on existing homelessness prevention services.

  • Establish a ‘Housing First’[3] project in Buckinghamshire. This gives people direct access to permanent homes for those who are ‘stuck’ on the streets as an alternative to hostel stays. This is a cheaper and more effective solution to tackling rough sleeping than other alternatives.[4]

  • Continue to make services more accessible by working with a range of partner charities, like Wycombe Homeless Connection, to ensure they hear from those with a diversity of lived experiences of homelessness.

If you would like to speak to our CEO, James Boultbee, about our manifesto, contact us on 01494 447699, [email protected] or via our website www.wyhoc.org.uk

You can download our manifesto here to share with candidates or anyone you think might be interested. 

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness#rough-sleeping-tables

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inequality-coronavirus-polling-liberty-disabled-homeless-poverty-b1817301.html

[3] https://hfe.homeless.org.uk/

[4] https://hfe.homeless.org.uk/our-research