Head of Canning Town homelessness charity grills Robert Jenrick

Housing Secretary visits Canning Town homelessness charity

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick - pictured with Caritas Anchor House CEO Amanda Dubarry and Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz during a January 2020 visit to the charity - attended the homelessness summit organised by Citizens UK. - Credit: Caritas Anchor House

The chief executive of a Canning Town charity has grilled the government's housing secretary on his plans to tackle homelessness. 

Caritas Anchor House chief executive Amanda Dubarry was among those in attendance at Tuesday's (March 23) housing summit, an event organised by Citizens UK to discuss the living wage, homelessness and affordable housing.

Secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick was questioned on all three subjects, with relevant speakers addressing him on each. 

Amanda was on hand to offer her expertise on homelessness.

Describing the session as a "door-opener", she said: "We had a couple of asks of him within the homelessness section. The idea was to introduce Robert to working with organisations such as ours, and to help him see us as a powerful group."

She pinned Mr Jenrick down on some key promises; specifically, he has committed to attending a prospective summer event on modular housing and to meeting smaller steering groups in the future.

Amanda was also promised a designated contact from the housing department so the charity can liaise more effectively.

This is not Amanda's first interaction with Mr Jenrick after he visited Canning Town last year.

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Recalling this visit shows the housing secretary has a "connection" to the issue of homelessness in Newham, said Amanda, who was encouraged that promises made will be fulfilled.

She is particularly eager for the modular housing event to go ahead, given the benefits such accommodation offers to rough sleepers.

At the time of Mr Jenrick's visit to Caritas Anchor House last year, Newham had the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

The picture since then has changed significantly, as the Covid-19 pandemic saw rough sleeping drop considerably.

Amanda speaks positively of the borough's most recent "street count" - the number of rough sleepers counted on a specific night.

Taken in November, the figure showed Newham's rough sleepers had dropped 91 per cent from 120-plus to six. 

Though this number will vary given the street count is taken on one night, Amanda believes it bodes well.

Thanking Citizens UK for its role in organising the event, she feels "productive and positive" about the working relationship ahead.