On Tuesday 28th January 2020, Caritas Anchor House welcomed Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick.
The Secretary of State visited the charity to see the work being done to combat homelessness in the London Borough of Newham, where homelessness levels are higher than anywhere else in the country. He took the opportunity to meet the people that had experienced homelessness, and were being supported by Caritas Anchor House to rebuild their lives.
Mr Jenrick said, “I’ve been tremendously impressed by what I’ve seen here today, and listening to some of the stories of the residents all whom essentially said that without Caritas Anchor House, they would still be sleeping rough on the streets, and many of whom said that it effectively saved their lives.
“I’ve been very impressed by the work of Caritas Anchor House and what’s happening across Newham more generally; it feels like you’re on the right track.”
“It is one of the priorities of this Government to eliminate rough sleeping over the course of this Parliament. In such a successful, prosperous city as London it’s a shame that so many people are sleeping on the streets and it needs to be addressed.
“But we need to ensure that you have the resources that you need to keep on tackling this issue and that we bring together, and work productively together, with all of the relevant groups whether that’s local councils, charities, the NHS and the police so that we take much more coordinated and effective approach to really tackling the issue.”
Mr Jenrick agreed with Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive at Caritas Anchor House, that a system change was required to have a real impact on the rising levels of homelessness and the lives of those affected.
On the same day as the visit, the government announced that councils will receive an extra £112million from the Rough Sleeping Initiative to tackle rough sleeping. The initiative was launched in 2018 to help local authorities provide services for those living on the streets, and this funding round is to provide up to 6,000 new bed spaces and 2,500 support staff across the country.
The funding will support Caritas Anchor House to deliver its Rough Sleeper Assessment Hub, providing first-stage accommodation through its 23 bed spaces, and specialist support to people who are already sleeping rough. The Hub launched in December 2018, and in its first year, it supported 68 people who had been sleeping on the streets. In addition, Caritas Anchor House supported a further 193 people in 2019, through its core service which provides longer-term accommodation to people experiencing homelessness.
When Mr Jenrick asked Alex, a resident at Caritas Anchor House, what living here offers to her, she said “Caritas Anchor House saved my life.” This is often echoed by those who come to us for help. Nikhil was sleeping rough for eight months before moving into Caritas Anchor House.
“I was working full-time and had been renting a room for over a year. One day my landlord said I had to leave immediately. I didn’t know at the time, but his home was a council property and he was sub-letting my room unlawfully.
“I was attacked four times when I was living on the streets. I was too scared to sleep, developed problems with drinking, and lost my job.
“Now, my life couldn’t be more different. I feel confident and I’ve stopped drinking. I have structure to my life, access to advice and encouragement, and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive.
“Caritas Anchor House even helped me to secure a new home, and now that I have a permanent address, my goal is to get a job and back to normal life. They made it possible for me to get my life back. I am so happy, and feel positive about the future.”