Jersey’s emergency homeless accommodation is under-funded, and the government has no formal definition of what homelessness actually is, according to a major new report.
The Homeless Strategy, published today (11 January), sets out eight key priorities to improve the situation in the island.
It is estimated around 50 to 60 people a month seek a bed for the night at The Shelter Trust’s Aztec House in St Helier, with a similar number turning to the Jersey Women’s Refuge annually.
The strategy has been produced by the Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board which was formed in 2019 to understand the scale of the problem and come up with possible solutions.
It says the first priority is to come up with a legal definition for homelessness under Jersey law, which unlike in the UK, has no statutory definition meaning there are no reliable statistics to identify the scale of the issue.
Becoming homeless is one of the worst things that can happen to someone, but it generally happens because of some other root cause, such as losing a job, a divorce, domestic abuse or other vulnerabilities including mental illness or substance abuse. Without these root causes being tackled the results can have a devastating impact.
The Shelter Trust says the demand for temporary and emergency shelter "shot up rapidly" at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
There were too many people for the hostels to cope with and for people to be able to socially distance. Different organisations worked together to quickly find additional accommodation as a temporary solution. This was a real positive, but we need to have permanent measures in place to resolve the ongoing problem.
The eight key priorities of the Jersey Homelessness Strategy are:
1. Understand and define homelessness by providing a statutory definition and clear messages to promote a shared understanding of the issue.
2. Evidence the scale and nature of the issue so that we can plan how to prevent and address it.
3. Create a housing advice hub so that everyone knows where to go to get help.
4. Establish a complex needs team to take responsibility for resolving the housing issues of the most vulnerable.
5. Provide a housing safety net for all which is appropriate, flexible and able to meet the needs of everyone.
6. Commissioning and regulation to ensure that housing-related support services are consistent and sustainable.
7. Strengthen the role and supply of social housing to ensure that it is better able to meet housing need.
8. Support private sector tenants and landlords to promote positive relationships.
The Minister for Children and Housing, Deputy Jeremy Maçon, welcomed the publication of the strategy.
The Jersey Homelessness Strategic Board is independent of Government, and ensures the work of different groups is coordinated and directed towards tackling this hidden problem. Officers have been closely involved in the strategy’s development and we will continue to work in collaboration with the Board, and the many other individuals and organisations involved in tackling homelessness.