World Homeless Day | Retail's Role
Originally posted 1 August 2018. Updated 10 October 2019.
Homelessness has been on the rise over the last few years, impacting towns and cities, in all regions across the United Kingdom (UK). According to Homeless Link the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 165% since 2010, while the number of those who are statutory homeless has reached 319,000.
The West Midlands has seen the biggest percentage increase since 2017, with an increase of 42%, whilst London and the South East have the highest actual numbers of homeless people – 1283 and 934 respectively (Homeless Link, 2019).
There are several contributing factors that causes someone to be homeless. UK homeless charity Crisis states that these can include lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment” as well as life events, such as losing their job, mental and physical health problems or relationship break down. Leaving prison, care or the army without a home to go to can also contribute to a person becoming homeless. Often homelessness is a combination of two or more of these factors.
The link between homelessness and mental health
Evidence is increasingly showing that there is a link between homelessness and mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 80% of homeless people in England have reported having mental health issues, whilst 45% have been diagnosed with a condition. These conditions include major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 26% of homeless people in the UK cite mental health problems as a key reason for them being homeless, double the percentage in the rest of the European Union.
The role of the retail industry
Firstly, despite challenging times, our industry has great potential to offer training and work opportunities to those out of work and/or lacking skills to find secure, well paid employment. It is not to say that all people who are homeless are unemployed or lacking skills, because this is most definitely not the case, but many are and due to the vulnerability of their position, find it incredibly difficult to find work.
By providing such opportunities and pathways into employment, jobs in retail could offer people the stability they need to find a home. An example of this is the Pret Foundation’s Rising Stars program. The programme takes on 40 homeless people a year, finding them a shop suited to them, providing them with food, travel and accommodation for 3 months. Around 75% of their Rising Stars graduate after 3 months while over half stay on at Pret.
Secondly, in a time of adaptation, could the industry explore how empty retail space could be used to support people who are homeless through providing a pop-up centre for training, or for a local charity or organisation to offer counselling and advice services? Alternatively, empty space could be converted into training centres or a food collection point for those in need.
Lastly, the complex nature and precarious situation of people who experience homelessness means that only long-term, multi-stakeholder approaches can work. In helping move towards long-term change, investors and landlords should consider the kind of organisations they are supporting, looking towards those that work towards long-term solutions to homelessness instead of the quick fixes.
Many members are exploring great initiatives, such as Landsec who has established a number of partnerships with homelessness charities through their retail portfolio, providing pathways to employment, training and tailored support for people who are homeless. intu support homelessness charities, including The Bus Shelter MK, a homeless shelter made from a converted old bus.
Over a number of weeks in November, Revo will be releasing a number of toolkits, as well as signposting to external volunteering opportunities. These will include:
1. Tactics toolkit
2. Recognising in-work poverty and precarious employment in employees
3. Case studies and big ideas.