Nadia on... Homelessness in Nottingham

Words: Nadia Whittome
Photos: Fabrice Gagos
Saturday 12 December 2020
reading time: min, words

In her monthly LeftLion column, Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East, discusses issues effecting both Nottingham and Westminster. This month, she discusses the issue of homelessness in Nottingham, and the role local organisations play in combatting it... 


Since 2010, the number of rough sleepers in the UK increased by 165%, with around 4,677 people sleeping in the streets on any given night before the start of the pandemic. However, rough sleeping is only the most visible form of homelessness. For every person who ends up in the streets, there are many more people without a stable home: in temporary accommodation, hostels or night shelters; squatting or crashing on friends’ sofas. Homeless charity Shelter estimates that around 280,000 people in the UK were homeless at the end of last year.

To better understand the problem in our city, I recently met with Framework, a specialist charity based in Nottingham supporting homeless people and those at risk of homelessness across the East Midlands. In this month’s column, I’d like to talk about what I found out.

Despite the evictions ban being in place until September this year, an average of two new rough sleepers were reported in Nottingham every week. The Everyone In policy, which saw thousands of street homeless people housed in temporary accommodation at the start of the pandemic, didn’t help those who lost the roof over their heads since the first lockdown started. Rising unemployment, especially among low-paid young people, domestic violence and family breakdown, and renters being unaware of their rights have all contributed to this situation. On a national level, 90,063 people have been threatened with homelessness since April – and more than half of them have already lost their accommodation. In Nottingham, Framework’s City Outreach Team has worked with a total of 634 rough sleepers since the first lockdown started – half of them people who found themselves on the streets for the first time.

Framework, which will soon be celebrating its 20th anniversary, helps around 18,000 people every year, including street homeless people and vulnerable people at risk of losing their homes. While primarily based in Nottingham, the charity also covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and Sheffield. Homeless people rarely stay in one place, explains its CEO Andrew Redfern.

Homelessness can’t be seen or addressed separately from its underlying causes. It always has a context to it: whether that’s addiction and mental ill health, domestic violence, or poverty and unemployment. That’s why Framework not only helps people find a home but also supports them in other areas of life. On top of providing accommodation for nearly 3000 people each year, the charity also offers specialist physical and mental health services and a care home for people with complex needs; it helps people gain skills and find work, and prevents homelessness for example by supporting prison leavers or by mediating between tenants and landlords.While all homelessness is political, some cases in particular are a direct result of government policy. For example, a proportion of the homeless population are people with No Recourse to Public Funds – migrants who have a condition attached to their visas preventing them from accessing benefits or housing support. Some arrived in the UK as asylum seekers, others moved here for work but then lost their jobs and found themselves destitute, with nowhere to go. Because local authorities can’t fund programmes to help them off the streets, Framework has had to rely on fundraising to support this vulnerable group. 

Charities like Framework are a lifeline for the hundreds of people in Nottingham, and thousands of people around the country, who don’t have secure accommodation

Charities like Framework are a lifeline for the hundreds of people in Nottingham, and thousands of people around the country, who don’t have secure accommodation. “Unlike many companies, we couldn’t just suspend our work during lockdown,” explains Redfern. The people they work with need support every day.

However, to end homelessness, individual solutions will never be enough. We need to address its root causes: such as spiralling rents and the lack of social housing, the severe underfunding of mental health and other support services, and a benefits system that lets people fall through the cracks. Austerity measures have contributed to growing numbers of rough sleepers over the past decade, and a fresh round of cuts would risk even more people losing their homes. The hostile environment also makes people homeless, which is why I have been campaigning to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds.

I want a future where homeless charities become obsolete and no one has to fear spending Christmas in the streets. Until then, I’m thankful for the people in our city who dedicate their lives to helping those who find themselves without a place to call home. People like Framework, but also Emmanuel House which provides shelter and support for vulnerable adults in Nottingham, or Host Nottingham who help house destitute asylum seekers – these are the quiet heroes working every day to save and transform lives. Thank you for all you do.

Nadia Whittome website

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