Gazette comment: Hostels and half-marathons won’t solve housing crisis but they could still save lives


- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

It’s really good news the council is shelling out for a 148-room homeless hostel in Seven Sisters Road.

It means more than 300 people can be offered a bed in Hackney who would otherwise have been sent further away from their communities and support networks.

The role of privately run hostels in Hackney’s housing provision is at present a necessary evil, but it was made all too clear in our Hidden Homeless series that they are not the right places for vulnerable people. Facilities run by charities and local authorities, while they can also be challenging environments, are better equipped to cater for at least some of their guests’ needs. This isn’t necessarily a reflection on any of the people who operate or work at private hostels, but simply a product of the fact they are not equipped or contracted to meet more than basic needs. It may only be a sticking plaster, but the more hostels the council can run by itself, the better short-term housing will be.

It’s particularly good news that the new building could be open soon, because Hackney’s homeless population is about to swell: the charity-run winter night shelter shuts at the end of March. Its bosses would love to keep it open all year round, but don’t have the cash. That’s why we’ve chosen to back the shelter through our partnership with the Hackney Half.

With barely a month until the race, and not having run more than 500 yards in years, I didn’t think signing myself up would be the best way to reach my next birthday. Fortunately, three far better people have stepped up to the challenge, and I’ll be cheering them on over the Bank Holiday weekend.

We can’t beat the housing crisis with hostels or half-marathons, but if those pursuits help even one family then they are worthwhile. Watch for more on the winter night shelter in the coming weeks – and please sponsor our runners