50,000 Reasons….to ask the right questions

A new year message from Gary Bishop, CEO of Justlife:

Happy New Year! It’s a special one for us at Justlife as we celebrate 10 years working to make peoples stay in unsupported temporary accommodation as short, safe & healthy as possible.

When our friend Jason died in a Bed & Breakfast a few hundred yards from our house in east Manchester; we began to ask some questions. We wanted to know, ‘what kind of community is set up to help people but allows an extremely vulnerable young man to die in a room and not be found for 2 weeks?’, ‘why are councils spending hundreds of thousands of pounds placing homeless people in uninhabitable places?’, ‘Why has no-one noticed what is going on here?’

Our questions were not always welcomed by local authorities who prefer to keep the homeless stats to a minimum nor by some landlords who were raking in tidy profits by charging hotel rates and providing slum-like facilities, but we kept asking them anyway.

Our questions led us to other towns and cities, Justlife is now established in Brighton and helping to establish place-based partnerships to tackle unsupported temporary accommodation problems in a dozen other localities around England.

In 2017 we decided to ask another big question. ‘How many people in England are living in B&B accommodation?’ Our first port of call was the Department for Communities and Local Government, who record the country’s homelessness statistics, and we found their numbers for the end of 2016 to be, 5990 and we knew this figure was wrong. So our team took on the arduous task of filing freedom of information requests with all 326 local authorities in England asking them ‘How many households claim housing benefit on Bed & Breakfast accommodation?’ They told us that the total number of claims, many of which will be family not individual claims was 51,327. Over 50,000 individuals and families who will go to bed tonight without a secure tenancy, many without a lock on their door or any heating or hot water, with strangers all around and often no knowledge of when their next move will come of what it will be.

So for this, our 10 year anniversary at Justlife we are focussing on the reasons that we drive on with our services, our research and our awareness raising – we have 50,000 reasons and each one is a person or family who needs our help.