Early action needed
TACKLING the root causes of homelessness early in people’s lives is crucial to limiting the problem, according to a Cambridge University housing policy expert.
Professor Michael Oxley made the comments while in Perth for the Social Impact Festival, an event designed to generate “insights that address complex social problems”.
In the lead-up to Homelessness Week (August 7-13), Prof Oxley – whose area of expertise is social housing – said there was no silver bullet.
“I think things that help people early in their life tackle some of the things which lead to being homeless (are key),” Prof Oxley said.
“You can think of it as a housing problem but if you look at the reasons why people are homeless, it’s often to do with something that’s gone wrong in their life.
“Family break-up, kids being chucked out by parents, things not working out; the connection between mental illness and homelessness is not insignificant.
“You need packages of support together with good, secure housing where people can think of as being home.”
Good social housing has manifold benefits long after simply getting people off the streets, according to Prof Oxley.
“I got interested in the economic benefits of decent housing, which go far beyond the people who are actually living in the housing: stronger communities, better health outcomes, better educational attainment,” he said.
“One of the things I’ve been talking about is the advantages of growing community housing associations. Housing associations in the UK, some do a lot more than just put a roof over people’s head.
“They join with other organisations to help provide a whole range of support services to get people into employment.”
The theme of this year’s Homelessness Week is ‘Let’s end homelessness, not just manage it’.
But Prof Oxley said managing it was imperative.
“What you can do is make sure that somebody in that situation knows where to go to get support, gets the support and hopefully they move on,” he said.
Professor Michael Oxley.