Early ac­tion needed

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Streetwatch -

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 of them 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.”

Pro­fes­sor Michael Ox­ley.

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