125,000 people in London alone are at risk of homelessness. But this number is so much more than just a housing issue. Our Wimbledon Foundation Homelessness Fund partners, SPEAR, tell us how they are laying the foundations to support their clients with their financial and mental wellbeing through the cost-of-living crisis.
We know that support services designed to break the cycle of homelessness and address poor mental health are vital … with the right support, lives can change.
Homelessness can be the result of many contributing factors such as poor mental health, unemployment, or a lack of support networks. Breaking this cycle is not simple, and the cost-of-living crisis will only complicate matters. Millions of households across the country will struggle to make ends meet this winter.
In the past twelve months, SPEAR has supported over 1,000 people. As the cost of living increases, we are predicting this figure will rise. Most of our clients claim benefits and do not have enough income to pay the demands of the rising cost of living. Sadly, for those who are rough sleeping, this could mean that they refuse offers of accommodation which they can no longer afford, resulting in longer periods on the streets. The crisis will also threaten the progress of people who have managed to rebuild their lives away from the streets and into accommodation as they now struggle to pay their bills.
We are already seeing an increased reliance on food banks amongst our clients. This will likely have a knock-on effect on people’s emotional wellbeing – leading to depression and anxiety – and on their pathway towards breaking the cycle of dependability. They will also contend with the prospect of getting into debt, which may have pushed them into homelessness in the first instance. The revolving door of homelessness is a real possibility for some.
We know that support services designed to break the cycle of homelessness and address poor mental health are vital and that creating a home where people feel safe, and have space to focus on improving their wellbeing, takes time – but with the right support, lives can change.
The revolving door of homelessness is a real possibility for some.
That’s why, in addition to providing accommodation, we at SPEAR are working to not only support those at risk of homelessness, but to raise awareness of the issues and barriers these people are facing, particularly as a result of the current crisis.
Our Resettlement Team is currently supporting clients in preparation for the crisis, by working with them to maximise their benefits, or claim the right benefits, helping them find work, ensuring they are on the correct energy tariffs, and informing them of available grants and funds they can apply for, and any discounts and offers.
We are also directing clients to their local authorities where applicable and supporting them to call their energy supplier to set up payment plans. We will be supporting clients with budgeting plans and researching the best value for money when it comes to food shopping, energy suppliers, and day centres where they can access food banks. On a more practical level, we are advising on the cheapest time in the day/evening to use their washing machines or when to compromise on using heating.
Even after the various measures that have been announced, we anticipate that our utility costs will be double those of last year – an extra £80,000 that we have not budgeted for.
But we are also concerned about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on SPEAR. As energy prices rise, so does the cost of heating the accommodations we provide. Even after the various measures that have been announced, we anticipate that our utility costs will be double those of last year – an extra £80,000 that we have not budgeted for.
London’s local heroes, like SPEAR, are facing the incredibly tough challenge of supporting their communities through the cost-of-living crisis, while simultaneously trying to sustain themselves. They do the incredible every day, but this comes at a financial cost.
A donation to The London Community Foundation's Together for London appeal will help organisations like SPEAR continue to provide these vital financial and mental wellbeing services to stop the revolving door of homelessness in its tracks.