Homelessness and the environment

During the recent summit at COP26 in Glasgow, over 30,000 delegates from around 200 countries convened to discuss solutions to global issues regarding the environment. Pledges were made to shift away from coal production and slash methane emissions. There was a drive to commit to reducing overall emissions to net zero. The UK government is seeking to compel the largest businesses to report how they will reduce their environmental impact over the next few years.

Many environmentalists are continuing to campaign for more action from more nations. The risks of global warming exceeding an 1.5°C increase remain ever present. Activists will keep pushing governments and businesses to adopt more and faster change. Some countries and businesses appear to be reluctant to adopt change or only to change over extended timeframes.

Global climate change does impact on homelessness. Droughts cause crops to fail. Livelihoods become hard or impossible to sustain resulting in communities needing to migrate to areas that better support crops. Flooding results in homes being destroyed. In many countries those in poverty and in areas at flood risk do not have the luxury of home insurance. A home destroyed results in becoming homeless until a new home can be rebuilt. Rising sea levels put many island communities at risk of losing their homes altogether.

In England the impacts of climate change are beginning to be reflected in heatwaves, periods of higher than average rainfall and occasions of severe cold weather. All these factors affect those who have to rough sleep. Very hot weather risks dehydration and sun stroke. Being on the streets does not give easy access to drinking water. Running a tap for a glass of water is not an option available. Periods of heavy rain make it very hard to keep belongings dry. Once your clothes or sleeping bag get wet, it is very hard to dry them when it continues to rain. Severe cold weather is a major risk. Thankfully there are provisions for night shelters when the temperature falls below zero. But to receive funding to open shelters, the weather needs to be below zero for 3 consecutive nights. Even with Severe Weather Emergency Provisions, these are not always open 24 hours, so during the day people may have to be outside in cold weather until the night shelter reopens.

At Restore we are keen to play our part in being as environmentally supportive as we can. For several years we have made it our policy to only use ‘green tariffs’ for our utility suppliers to all our properties. The Pure Green energy we use comes from 100% renewal sources such as solar, wind and hydro, but does not include biomass. We recognise these tariffs are slightly more expensive than fossil fuel providers’ alternatives, but subscribing to green energy is part of our ethical stance. We have long-term contracts for energy supplies that were in place long before the recent energy price rises.

Spurred on by COP26, we have commenced an Eco Project to review the energy efficiency of all the properties we lease. We have conducted an EPC audit for each property. We have identified a number of improvements to different properties, such as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, floor insulation, heating controls, and solar panels. All our current boilers are energy efficient, but none are heat pumps. Installing boilers is slightly more complicated as Restore do not own any property, so upgrades to boilers and full heating systems requires close liaison with the property landlords. We use energy efficient lighting already. Some of the eco-upgrades will require additional grant funding, so the rollout will have to be alongside funding being available.

Restore does not currently own any vehicles, so whilst overall mileage is low due to being local in York, our team drive a mixture of diesel, petrol, and hybrid vehicles. Some of our team only use public transport. Several use a bicycle to attend resident meetings.

In the office we have moved significantly to becoming paper-free in our operations by using digital platforms for casework with our residents.

There will always be more we can do to achieve a net zero carbon footprint, but we are on that journey towards a greener York.

Please check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RestoreYork/ to become a friend and get regular updates on what we do. If you would like to support our work, please click on the link https://www.restoreyork.co.uk/donate/ . If you cannot give, perhaps you could sign up to our newsletter https://www.restoreyork.co.uk/contact/. It would be great to journey together in reducing homelessness and moving the charity forward environmentally.

Every blessing.

Duncan Craig

Restore York CEO