Bath and North East Somerset is grappling with a concerning increase in homelessness, sparking worry among local officials and advocates. A recent council report has revealed that 218 households in the area are currently experiencing homelessness, while an additional 277 households are on the verge of facing a similar situation.
The gravity of the issue is compounded by the disclosure that nearly 200 individuals have been forced to endure the harsh realities of sleeping rough over the past year. The report issues a stark warning, stating that even a brief period of homelessness heightens the risk of long-term health complications. Shockingly, it notes that those experiencing long-term homelessness often face premature death and lead lives marked by significantly diminished quality.
A specialised homeless healthcare service, operationalised through daily clinics situated within the homeless hostel and outreach services, is a crucial component of the local council’s response to this crisis. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to address the mental health aspects of homelessness by actively seeking a qualified mental health outreach worker.
The gravity of the situation was laid bare in the most recent national count, a yearly autumnal event that tallies the number of individuals sleeping rough over a single night. According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the count revealed 12 individuals sleeping rough in Bath and North East Somerset. However, local authorities argue that this count significantly underplays the extent of the crisis.
The Council Cabinet Member for Adult Services highlighted the broader context, stating, “Nationally and locally, rates of homelessness are increasing, and the cost of living crisis and the shortage of affordable housing are putting many more families at risk of homelessness.” The council member expressed deep concern about the latest statistics, emphasizing that the count “underestimates the scale of the problem” by failing to account for those in insecure accommodation and individuals seeking refuge in hostels or night shelters.
A poignant response to the rising demand for support can be observed at the Manvers Street Hostel in Bath. Recognizing the immediate needs of those sleeping rough, the hostel provides a takeaway food provision for its clients facing the harsh realities of street sleeping.
In addition to immediate relief efforts, the local council has taken steps to coordinate a directory of warm spaces, providing individuals facing homelessness with a valuable resource during the challenging winter months. These warm spaces offer refuge and respite, acknowledging the critical role temperature plays in the well-being of those without stable housing.
While these measures provide essential support, local leaders and advocates are intensifying their efforts to address the root causes of homelessness. The cost of living crisis and the shortage of affordable housing have emerged as primary culprits, pushing vulnerable families to the brink of homelessness. Urgent calls are being made for comprehensive policy measures and increased investments in affordable housing initiatives to tackle this multifaceted challenge.
The council’s commitment to addressing the mental health aspects of homelessness through the recruitment of a mental health outreach worker is a step in the right direction. Mental health issues often intersect with homelessness, creating a cycle that is challenging to break without targeted interventions.
As Bath and North East Somerset grapples with the surging homelessness crisis, the need for a coordinated, compassionate, and multi-faceted approach becomes increasingly evident. Beyond the immediate challenges of providing shelter and sustenance, there is a pressing need to address the systemic issues driving individuals and families into homelessness in the first place. The community’s resilience and empathy will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping a more inclusive and supportive future for all residents.