Conservative-led Westminster Council is facing mounting criticism for closing a homelessness prevention programme in the midst of a pandemic which is leading to increasing poverty and precarity for thousands across the City.
Trailblazers was an organisation that approached how to prevent homelessness in line with the Homeless Reduction Act of 2017. This involved looking at all options that might be available to the facing potential homelessness – including alternative housing, employment opportunities, and how to leverage family support. By intervening early, Trailblazers not only had a positive impact on many peoples’ lives, it also saved taxpayers’ money by keeping people out of (very expensive) temporary accommodation.
The decision by the Government and Westminster Council to withdraw funding from Trailblazers comes as shock to those working to prevent and reduce homelessness in the City, especially as the decision was not announced publicly. It only came to light when local councillors made a referral to Trailblazers and received an automated email in response which stated the service was no longer operating.
Westminster has said people at risk of homelessness will now be referred for advice to Shelter, the housing advice charity. Whilst there is recognition that Shelter is a fantastic organisation that plays a pivotal role in helping those without a roof over their head, it is simply not equipped to provide the same kind of holistic and proactive support that Trailblazers did.
Cllr Guthrie McKie, shadow cabinet member for housing said: “Westminster’s decision to close Trailblazers is yet another false economy that will create yet more anxiety for vulnerable people and result in more homelessness. The Council must re-think how it can continue to support those residents at a difficult and damaging time in their lives.”