The North East has seen a 29 per cent rise in homeless rates, according to government figures.
The region had 51 homeless people in 2017, whereas in 2018 the figure increased to 66. This increase comes as figures also show a slight decrease in the homelessness rate nationwide, dropping 2 per cent from the previous year (from 4,751 in 2017 to 4,677 in 2018).
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, a charity set up to tackle homelessness, spoke to SR News about the figures.
She commented that, while the recent figures showed a 2 per cent decrease, the figure had increased 165 per cent since 2010 and feels the “broken housing system” is to blame.
Neate said: “The combination of spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and lack of social housing means the number of people forced to sleep rough has dramatically risen since 2010.
“Anyone who is forced to sleep in shop doorways or on the night bus is the end result of a broken housing system.”
And while she feels the government have made some welcome initiatives, she believes the figures have shown a need for major investment in new social homes and has challenged the government to build three million houses over the next 20 years.
Emmaus North East is another charity tackling homelessness, with the end goal of getting them into work and becoming “the masters of their own destiny”.
John Harrison, community manager at Emmaus North East, feels welfare reform and lack of employment opportunities are the reason for the rise in homelessness in the North East and that investment into industry is important as a solution.
Harrison said: “I think increasing investment in industry is important. Sunderland and the North East was once the engine room of economic development in the UK with ship building, coal and heavy industry.
“This has gone but more needs to be done to secure meaningful jobs and education and investment and provision made to support those who struggle to become a part of the economic workforce.”
Harrison also felt that to decrease the figure, homelessness needs to stop being seen as just a housing and employment issue and that all people are equal, looking at the value in their humanity and not their economic value.
He said: “We need to stop framing the issue of homelessness as purely a housing or employment issue and recognise it is far more multi-faceted.
“All human beings require a purpose and need support, love and interaction. Much of government policy is about forcing people into a particular role and work is seen as salvation.
“Yes work is important but most importantly is a recognition that all people are equal and whether you are homeless, unemployed, or the CEO of a bank your value is in your humanity and not in your economic capacity to produce.”