Push To Legally Define Homelessness

The CEO of Caritas Jersey says legally defining homelessness will help to really understand the full extent of the problem.

Making a clear definition was one of eight key priorities set out in a Homelessness Strategy published in January 2021, but that's yet to be actioned.

Jersey's new Housing Minister, Deputy David Warr, says 167 homeless people are currently living in shelters in Jersey, which he called 'a big reality check'.

Patrick Lynch from Caritas Jersey thinks that figure could just be from Shelter Trust accommodation and the real figure is likely to be closer to 1,000.

He says a statutory definition can mean real solutions can be put in place.

"For instance, if you look at the UK or Ireland or European countries, you see a lot of homelessness in shop doorways overnight on the high street.

You don't see that here. That isn't just what homelessness is about.

We want to have a definition of it - whether that be rooflessness, houselessness, insecure housing etc - by having that statutory definition, that allows us to then actually do a census of what the homeless population is so that we know the full extent of the problem."

The Guernsey Foundation Commission has proposed a definition of homelessness in Guernsey.

That is if a person's accommodation lacks at least two of the following characteristics:

  • Affordability
  • Adequacy
  • Security of tenure

Mr. Lynch says he's looking at the standard definitions that have been used elsewhere.

"There's the 'European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion' framework for defining homelessness and that is what the Jersey draft definition has looked at.

That has got four key points, which are rooflessness, houselessness, living in insecure housing, and living in inadequate housing. That is where we're looking at the start for the development of a definition here for Jersey.

By having the definition then that leads you to get a better idea of sofa surfing, those people who are living in cars or vans or caravans, and those people who have got insecure tenancies, whereby they could literally be out on the street after the weekend, for instance."

Other priorities set out in the Homelessness Strategy include:

  • Creating a housing advice hub so everyone knows where to go to get help
  • Creating a complex needs team to help the most vulnerable with housing 
  • Providing a housing safety net for all

"The eight key priorities taken as a whole are something that needs to be addressed.

Although we would say that getting that statutory definition (of homelessness) is point one, the other seven need to come together to really address and really defeat this awful problem of homelessness on the island."

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