Colette McKune, Group Deputy Chief Executive, explains why it's now more important than ever for housing providers to prioritise tackling homelessness.

Rough sleeping has been rising steadily in the UK for the past seven years.

Austerity has taken its toll on many areas of our communities and has stretched Local Authority funding to the limit.

Research from Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found 70% of councils across England find it difficult to help people access social housing to tackle homelessness.

Once again housing associations find themselves as the last service standing.

As one of the greatest issues facing our society, it is our duty to work alongside our local authority partners and take up the challenge.

Whether that’s providing homes for those currently homeless or by working with partners to prevent and alleviate it, tackling homelessness needs to be at the heart of the services we offer.

This is not mission creep, but mission critical for housing.

In April this year we launched forfutures, to deliver homelessness support services for Cheshire West and Cheshire Council over the next nine years.

The forfutures team is focused on tackling the causes of homelessness by supporting people into safe, secure housing and providing them with opportunities to build a more positive and sustainable future.

They are currently engaging with more than 500 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

In Salford we are proposing to build a £3.5m scheme of 44 new homes for local people at risk of becoming homeless.

Forfutures will provide expert support to each tenant in their new home over a two-year period, linking them in to future employment and training opportunities and long-term accommodation beyond the life of the tenancy.

As we are all too aware, one of the root causes of the rise in homelessness in recent years is the severity of the affordable housing crisis.

Throughout Greater Manchester, on average it would take a couple eight years to be able to save a 10% deposit towards buying a two-bed house.

That’s why across the North West we’ve developed over 900 new homes to date across a mix of tenures and we’ll be building a further 540 homes across the North West by 2020.

But we know we need to do more.

World Homeless Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the needs of homeless people – something we have been working hard on at ForViva with our partners.

We are proud to be working to tackle entrenched rough sleeping with other members of the Greater Manchester Housing Partnership (GMHP) and are also working with Salford Rough Sleepers Programme to provide temporary accommodation to help people off the streets.

Prevention is at the heart of our approach.

Our work with Salford’s care leavers support organisation, Next Step, is helping young people leaving the care system to learn new skills to help them manage their own tenancies and build a brighter future.

Everyone deserves a safe, warm home. Tackling and preventing homelessness can transform people’s lives for the better and build stronger communities.

We will continue to champion that homelessness needs to be at the core of the services we provide as housing associations, not left out in the cold.

Watch our short video on how we're working with partners to tackle homelessness and don't forget to listen to our latest installment of our Podcast 'There's No Place Like...' focussing on the stories of people who have transformed their lives after facing homelessness.

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