LOW-INCOME families in Jersey face a ‘ticking time bomb’ caused by high house prices and the rising cost of living, groups working to help the homeless have warned.
The coalition of charities and other groups making up the Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board stressed the full extent of the problem remained unclear, although Housing Minister David Warr said the government was addressing the issue.
A press release issued by the board said: “On World Homelessness Day, Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board warns of a ticking time bomb for low-income families.
“Sky-high house prices mean thousands of families are stuck in ever-increasing and expensive private rentals and the cost-of-living crisis is pushing the most vulnerable into homelessness.”
Canon Geoff Houghton, vice-chair of The Shelter Trust and co-founder of the Jersey Homeless Outreach Group, said that while homelessness was less conspicuous than in years gone by, this did not mean the problem had gone away.
He said: “When we began the outreach group more than 20 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find 25 or 30 people sleeping rough – there are far fewer now, because they are ‘picked up’ by the various organisations, but homelessness is a complex issue and comes in many different forms.”
Canon Houghton said resources were a key part of the challenge, and that he hoped government would recognise the merit in investing in the matter.
“If we were simply a night shelter, giving people a mattress and them leaving the next morning, that would be very short-term,” he said.
“But we are proud of working with individuals from the point they arrive for as long as they are at risk of homelessness.”
Simon Burgess, independent chair of the strategic board, said the intention was to use World Homeless Day as a way of raising awareness and encouraging Islanders to get involved.
He emphasised that vulnerable Islanders were being pushed into homelessness and added: “We still do not know the full scale of the problem, and this is a chance to ask our politicians what they are doing to understand the true extent of homelessness and how they propose to improve policies to tackle the causes, not just the symptoms.”
Mr Burgess said those staying in temporary hostels fell into only three of the government’s 13 homeless categories, with further groups being classified under this heading if they were living in insecure or inadequate housing, sleeping rough, sofa surfing living with no legal tenancy, under threat of eviction or under threat of violence.
Deputy Warr, who attended a homelessness exhibition at West’s Centre in St Helier, said the government was committed to providing help for Islanders who needed it.
He said: “The Housing Advice Service in La Motte Street is a central point and we have earmarked additional funding in the Government Plan to bolster this. We are also planning to provide more access to social housing via the Housing Gateway by reducing the minimum eligibility age from 40 to 25 and raising the income threshold.”
Deputy Warr also said that the issue did not just involve housing, and that he was part of a cross-ministerial group, with his counterparts from Education, Social Security and Home Affairs, working to stop Islanders falling into homelessness.