There are few things more pressing in England than the problem of homelessness and rough sleeping. It's incredible to think the World's 5th largest economy has increasing rates of homelessness and poverty, caused by years of austerity and underinvestment in vital public services.
Did you know there is currently a crisis in the numbers of homeless people sleeping on the streets? In the last year, the number of homeless people in England has increased by 20%. In our area (Bedford), there are circa 76 registered homeless, but London dwarfs that figure at more than 1,000 registered homeless. That's according to the Government’s Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government report entitled ‘Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2017 England' published nearly two years ago now. You can bet that number is now a lot higher.
So it was with great delight that we stumbled across an opportunity to make a real difference. We were fortunate to meet a local property investor and developer with a real passion for addressing the homeless issue. Not only that, but the means and determination to do something about it too.
I'm therefore happy to announce we've been appointed as Architects to help define what this solution might be. The project will commence with a massing study to understand the potential of a site - a car park - to create housing, but also the facilities for all of the other amenities required to develop a solution to this problem. A key challenge for this site is we cannot lose any of the parking facility and will therefore need to consider what can be achieved on a deck that sits above the car park. An interesting complication that we're excited to resolve.
However, the ambition goes beyond just this site. We are trying to create a prototype system that can be adopted by landowners throughout England as a means to alleviate homelessness in other parts of the country too. Now that would be a significant impact indeed.
It's fair to say we're thrilled to be working on this challenge. It's not often you get to work on projects that make a real impact on society. I look forward to keeping you informed as we move forward with this significant piece of work and, hopefully, in future, I can share more interesting images than a topographical survey of a car park too.