With World Homeless Day (10 October) tomorrow, the stark reality of the winter months is upon us and a leading charity is reminding people of the need to support the region’s “hidden homeless”. As it reveals the latest updates on three major projects, Heart of England Community Foundation wants to demonstrate the immediate housing needs facing society. 

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that unemployment rose by 62,000 in the three months leading up to July and Payroll data showed that 695,000 less people were employed in England, when compared to March. These statistics serve as a reminder that the true effects of Covid-19 have only just begun to surface. 

With the furlough scheme coming to an end and many high street names hitting the headlines with news of closures and redundancies, conditions are set to get tougher and the UK will face more people at risk of homelessness. However, many of those who experience homelessness may not be forced to live life on the streets, but rather sofa surfing, in their car, or over-crowded accommodation. Many of the national statistics do not include those living invisibly, though charities across the country are feeling the pinch as they see new referrals happening every day. 

Leading grant-giving charity Heart of England Community Foundation has supported many homeless charities across the West Midlands and Warwickshire, and last year saw the launch of its Building Better Lives programme. A project that has invested over £3 million into three charities, to support the build of purpose-built housing for people in need across Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country. 

The grant, funded by anonymous donors, was awarded to St Basils Coventry, YMCA Birmingham and Black Country Women’s Aid; charities that offer accommodation for a range of different people across the region. The Foundation chose the three charities due to their unwavering commitment to provide stable and rehabilitating living conditions to those who need it. 

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils, one of the beneficiaries, comments:

“Since the pandemic, there has been an increased need for truly affordable accommodation for young people in the area. Coronavirus has meant that a lot of young people have lost their jobs and, in turn, can no longer afford to pay rent and bills. Work on our new accommodation project in Coventry, thanks to the Building Better Lives funding, is nearing completion and we will be able to prevent young people from being made homeless, by offering them high-quality managed apartments that ensure we can help them get back onto their feet.

Of course, rough sleeping remains a real issue across the UK, including in our region, but we have to remind people that it’s the tip of a much bigger iceberg. Especially with the pandemic continuing to affect the economy, it’s quite a bleak picture when we look at what might happen in the coming months. Being able to open our new accommodation means that we can have a proactive role in the prevention of homelessness and enable young people to find and keep a job and a home.” 

Though each of the three projects, which also includes the construction of 27 self-contained flats at YMCA Birmingham’s Magdalene Court and the refurbishment of a Black Country Women’s Aid refuge for victims of modern-day slavery, has seen delays due to the pandemic they are back on track and due to open in the coming months. 

Commenting on Building Better Lives, Heart of England Community Foundation’s Chief Executive, Tina Costello, said: 

The housing crisis in the West Midlands has left so many vulnerable people without a home or a safe place to live. These latest unemployment statistics are the tip of the iceberg and it’s so important that local charities and organisations are in a position to help with the immediate need. 

Sometimes, it’s easier for people to remember rough sleepers, as they see them every day on their walk to work or the shops, but there’s a much bigger picture that we have to be aware of. That’s why Building Better Lives is such an important project to us; it has allowed us to fund three housing projects to the tune of £3 million, helping people when they need it most.” 

Building Better Lives is one of Heart of England Community Foundation’s biggest grant-giving moments, funded by anonymous donors who wanted to support housing projects specifically for the most vulnerable people in our community. 

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