Homelessness is certainly not an issue exclusive to the borough of Harrow.
London itself has the highest rates of homelessness nationwide, as the London council estimates that almost 150,000 homeless Londoners live in temporary accommodation.
Though the estimated rate for applications of homeless within the borough, amid those who fall in the category of eligibility by Harrow Council, lies within the realm of 450.
However, the average rate for acceptances per 1000 households is 0.39, and housing delivery, as in average net affordable social and discounted housing completions is an underwhelming 10. There were just over 1,100 households living in temporary accommodations in 2019.
Meanwhile, the problem of homelessness was only exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis as applicants for rented properties found meeting the demand nearly impossible amid landlords either exiting the market or increasing their rent, while residents dependent on welfare support found it difficult to meet housing costs amongst other expenses.
This article aims to take a look at the measures set in place by Harrow Council to tackle the boroughs crisis of homelessness, whilst exploring the larger policies that aid in alleviating the struggle, finally giving a quick overview of the programs available under charity organisations all in an effort to offer support to the boroughs most vulnerable.
Amid the fears accompanied by the cost-of-living crises, the borough of Harrow, alongside many others pushed for an increase in the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), a means for those who are eligible to cover the cost of housing if their landlord is private.
As a response to the covid-19 pandemic, the government increased the rate of this housing benefit to 30% of local market rates but subsequently froze it, putting a strain on the affordability of adequate housing once again.
The borough of Harrow advocates heavily for the restoration of the previous 30% of LHA in the current market rate, as a measure to not only reduce the likelihood of homelessness for their residents but as means of alleviating the strain, the crisis creates for the public sector.
In terms of homeless prevention, the Harrow Council has always used a range of measures to enable people to remain in their existing homes. These include the use of negotiation and legal advocacy, and offering ‘other’ private rental sector assistance, often financial. Where remaining in the current home is not possible, the Council supports people to find alternative accommodation and avoid homelessness, many through Harrow’s Help2Let service.
Harrow’s Help2Let Team works in partnership with landlords to assist those in housing who need to rent in the private sector. In helping families avoid homelessness it is particularly important in relieving the stressors and discharging the main homelessness duty by placing these households into PRS accommodation at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates.
Affordability of even the lowest rent PRS properties in Harrow is becoming more and more of a challenge and Help2Let is increasingly working with landlords outside of Harrow in order to offer families more affordable options.
On the other hand, there are a number of charity-run organisations dedicated to the eradication or alleviation of homelessness, one of the reputable being the Firm Foundation. Their ethos is to relieve the immediate suffering of the homeless while finding practical and sustainable solutions.
The services provided include the weekly signposting drop-in, the weekly day centre drop-in, the Winter Night Shelter (January to March), outreach and floating support and Hope Place supported housing.
Another notable not-for-profit organisation is Look Ahead, a charity that focuses on care and housing support. They operate in response to crises undergone by those suffering from homelessness by helping to provide temporary housing accommodations while supporting those with difficulties retaining their residency through collaboration and training.
In consideration of the current stressors brought about by the cost of living crisis, it is especially important that families and those most susceptible to homeless are aware of the avenues available to them. For this reason, the awareness of the policies and programs listed is key to the ultimate eradication of homelessness within Harrow.