Editor’s comment: Why the Hackney Gazette is relaunching its Hidden Homeless campaign


- Credit: Archant

Today we relaunch our award-winning Hidden Homeless series.

Since we first reported on the millions of pounds Hackney Council spends on temporary accommodation each year, the borough’s housing list has only grown. The public purse has been hit by another year of austerity and new rules around borrowing to build council housing merely tinker at the edges of a crisis.

So why are we reopening the campaign if so little has changed?

Last year, I promised we would keep telling the stories behind the temporary housing figures – bringing the scandal of the hidden homeless into view.

Because, sometimes, the fact that something isn’t new is precisely what makes it news.

Reading Fiona Mcleod’s story, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by how rotten the entire system is. When her landlord died, she gave up a secure job to become an agency worker on higher wages just so she could afford to move house. But as a result, she had no access to sick pay, and ended up homeless when she got ill. Because there is such a shortage of social housing, she was moved into a cold, cramped hostel room with her teenage son. And that has been their home for 10 months.

It breaks my heart that she feels she needs to say she’s grateful not to be sleeping rough. Of course it is good that she is indoors, but that should not be anyone’s benchmark. Everyone deserves adequate housing – not just a roof, but dignity, warmth and sufficient space for their mental and physical health not to suffer.

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A generation of governments, blue and red, have failed to plug the hole into which social housing has been pouring since 1980. And while it is necessary for councils to point that out, it is not sufficient as a response to the crisis. Hackney Council has to find its own answers – no one else will.