Although spring is in the air and the sun is shining, life is becoming more difficult still for people throughout the UK and beyond. Whilst we can only look on with horror at the events in Ukraine, closer to home people are dealing with cost of living increases that will have a devastating impact for months if not years to come. The arrival of spring usually signifies renewal & regrowth, something that was needed more than ever in post-pandemic 2022, instead we are facing significant challenges, the enormity of which will yet again impact the most vulnerable in our society the hardest.
It was with these challenges in the front of our minds that, over our last couple of months, we took a long hard look at our organisation, our strategy and the current impact of our work. Casting fresh eyes over our operations and approach, after a long couple of years spent in crisis mode, was a valuable and insightful exercise. It is fair to say that as an organisation, we are in a fortunate situation, investment in our fundraising and finance teams mean that we are financially stable, the hard work in developing our service delivery models has paid off and now, more than ever before, we can demonstrate significant positive outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
Our external environment is however becoming increasingly challenging. The pre-pandemic drivers of homelessness, including; a shortage of housing, rising rents and the ongoing impact of austerity, are still ever present and with the Bank of England warning of the greatest fall in living standards since records began, huge numbers of people face being pushed into poverty and homelessness. Recent figures from Shelter show that a quarter of private renters are behind on their rent or struggling to pay it and it is estimated that low earners will face losing 14% of their real income to rising prices. While we are all facing a perfect storm of rising food and fuel costs, the situation for those still dealing with the impact of lost pandemic earnings and the cut to universal credit will become increasingly precarious.
As a community organisation working on the frontline in homelessness we see the reality of what this means on a daily basis. For the people who come through the doors of the Dellow Centre, the past few years have seemed like one blow after another and their numbers are growing, recent figures already show an uplift in rough sleeping of 5% in our local community of Tower Hamlets in the first three months of this year. As demand for our services increases, our intention over the next few years must be to grow our reach, to work with more people than ever before. We have spent time reflecting on the needs of our clients, identifying where there is genuine need. We have used our experiences of operating throughout the pandemic, harnessing new methods of working to identify not only how we will support increasing numbers of people, but how we will provide more effective support, creating innovative, trauma informed services that focus on people as individuals and works with them on their terms.
Experience has shown us that outreach services, going out into the community, taking support to people in their environments, helps people to feel safe and encourages them to engage with us on a long-term basis. Our psychotherapy service works in this way and our clients who are working with our psychotherapists are showing that they are able to create lasting and meaningful change in their lives through the support the service offers. Adopting this model for other services and extending the reach of our services to other London boroughs will ensure that more people can benefit from this more tailored level of high-quality care and support.
It is also time to develop our physical environment to support these services, to create a modern, trauma informed Centre that creates more safe spaces for our clients. This is particularly important when we consider the increasing numbers of women using our services. According to Women’s Aid research, 40% of domestic violence survivors end up in hidden homelessness, these women often become invisible, hidden from services, hard to reach and even harder to support. Many of these, often incredibly vulnerable, women have lived through significant trauma and can have multiple, complex needs. Services and safe spaces designed specifically for women that provide tailored support are vital if we are to address their needs in a way that will have a lasting impact on their long-term safety and wellbeing.
Another driver for our work is the intention to provide holistic, individual support, to work with the whole person, identifying their specific needs and providing a tailored response. This is particularly important post pandemic as levels of poor mental health have soared, in hard times it is the most vulnerable that bear the brunt of the impact. Working with people from the point of crisis, identifying advice and support needs, providing opportunities for access to mental and physical health services and working with people on the tools & skills that will enable them to train, gain employment and create sustainable futures is at the heart of what we are aiming to deliver. The partnerships that we formed during the pandemic mean that we can now work collaboratively to strengthen our service delivery and ensure that we can offer a broad package of support, particularly when it comes to access the health care. The development of the health hub model has started to change the face of homeless health support in our local community and we are incredibly proud that this is hosted at Providence Row.
For any charity working on the frontline of homelessness, inequality and poverty in the UK today, these are challenging times. Our optimism of our current situation is occasionally dulled with concerns over future fundraising, with local authorities struggling to get funding from central government, funding opportunities definitely feel more uncertain going forward, added to this the cost of living crisis will undoubtedly have an impact on disposable income and on the ability of people to donate to us. However, with 160 years of experience behind us we have weathered many storms and an with an incredible team of experienced staff we know that our ability to work with people to bring around positive change in their lives is growing every day.