Mayor of Merton, Councillor Maxi Martin, officially launched Merton’s first Homelessness Strategy on Monday 22nd September. Over 60 people attended the event with representatives from housing, education, and social services, along with colleagues from the health service, voluntary sector agencies and the probation service. In addition a number of people who had themselves experienced homelessness were able to come along and share their views with us.
Initial feedback from the launch was that the Strategy was either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. Most felt that, if all the actions detailed in it were delivered, services for homeless people in Merton would be greatly improved.
The 5-year strategy was developed over the last 18 months by a team led by Graham Slater from Threshold Housing Advice, its vision, “to work in partnership to provide lasting housing solutions for the people of Merton”. The approach is very much ‘prevention is better than cure’, with the emphasis being on working in partnership to stop homelessness occurring in the first place.
Whilst Merton does not have the same levels of homelessness as many inner London boroughs, it does face similar challenges:
· Average property price in Merton is over £240,000 requiring an income of at least £60,000
· Privately renting a one-bed flat costs an average of £815 pcm and a 3 bed property costs an average of £1,331pcm
· Nearly 200 Council houses/flats were sold under Right to Buy last year
In spite of this, Merton has relatively low numbers of homeless households. It does not have a significant problem of street homelessness, and is not a high user of bed and breakfast.
Typically, Merton has the lowest number of households that are accepted as homeless out of all the London boroughs, and the lowest numbers of households in temporary accommodation.
Merton is however working hard to meet the central government target to eliminate the numbers of homeless families with children in bed and breakfast. Families should only be placed in B&B in an emergency and then should stay there for no more than 6 weeks. Whilst other boroughs can have hundreds of families in B&B, Merton currently has less than 15.
The Launch of the Strategy is just the beginning, its success will depend on ensuring continuous improvement and innovation of all agencies committed to reducing homelessness in Merton.
If you are interested in finding out more, or would like to become involved in the Homelessness Forum, please contact Jane Nottage, H