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BAME homelessness on the rise

GROWING PROBLEM: Increasing numbers of people from black and minority ethnic communities are facing homelessness

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE expressed concern that little is still being done to tackle the issue of homelessness in Britain’s black community.

Research published last year by the Runneymede Trust, Britain’s leading independent race-equality think tank, revealed African and Afro-Caribbean British people are nearly five times more likely to be homeless compared to white Londoners.

It analysed homeless figures from all 33 London boroughs and highlighted how London’s housing crisis was “disproportionately” affecting black people.

African and Afro-Caribbean British people are 4.6 times more likely to have been accepted as “homeless and in priority need” by their local authority compared to white Londoners.

However, a year on from the publication of the shock findings, the Trust says that local authorities and policy makers are still struggling to understand and deal with an aspect of a problem that is too often hidden from media attention.

Kimberly McIntosh, policy officer at the Runnymede Trust, told The Voice: "With the temperature dropping rapidly, it’s a critical time for homeless people across the UK. And with Christmas fast approaching, it’s a lonely as well as dangerous time of year. For black Londoners, it’s particularly perilous. Our analysis found black Londoners are more than four times more likely to be critically homeless compared to white Londoners. This disparity is shocking and unacceptable. Even in the best performing boroughs, black residents are still twice as likely to be critically homeless.

CONCERNS: Kimberly McIntosh, policy officer at the Runnymede Trust

She added: “The routes into homelessness are complex. But the Benefit Cap, is a likely culprit in the increase of BME homelessness. Our 2015 Budget Briefing noted that 40 per cent of those affected by the Cap were BME. Research by Chartered Institute of Housing has linked the Benefit Cap to increases in homelessness up and down the country. Our report with the Women’s Budget Group also highlighted that Black African households are more likely to be overcrowded – with 21% living in these conditions.”

Other recently published research on homelessness in the black community include many BAME individuals existing in lower income brackets; experiencing greater unemployment or experiencing health problems that disproportionately affect African Caribbeans such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure.

Cultural factors can also play a role - larger families are common in black communities meaning it is not always possible for older children to stay in the family home.

There are organisations which offer tailored advice and support such as the African Caribbean Community Initiative, Ekaya and Steve Biko housing associations.

However, many other homeless charities that also provided these services can no longer do so because of a lack of funding.

There are organisations that offer specific advice and support to black people affected by homelessness such as the Ekaya, African Caribbean Community Initiative, and Steve Biko housing association.
However, they are among a very small number of organisations because a lack of funding can mean this type of service is not more widely available.

According to figures from the Labour Party and seen by The Voice, show that the number of black households classed as homeless has increased 67 per cent.
POLICIES: John Healey, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary

Over the same period, the number of Chinese families accepted as homeless has increased by 83 per cent.

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “The scale of rising homelessness shames us all. After seven years of failure on housing, falling homelessness under Labour has turned into rising homelessness under the Conservatives.

“There was an unprecedented decline in homelessness with the last Labour government, but the number of homeless households has increased by half since 2010 and these figures show that it ethnic minority groups who have been worst affected.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Ministers urgently need to get a grip, back Labour's plans to end rough sleeping and build thousands more affordable homes.”

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