By John Carey
THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to raise the grant available to hostel owners for installing adequate fire precautions was a "victory" for those involved in the campaign for the homeless, the Catholic Housing Aid Society said this week.
The decision was announced in a debate on the Housing Bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday. 111. the Bill is passed hostel owners will be able to get up to £5,000 grant towards improvements.
Ms Robina Rafferty said: "This is a partial victory for the campaign for the homeless. The fact that the churches have played a part has definitely had an effect on the Government." Concern about hostel conditions was highlighted by the fire in March at the Missionaries of Charity hostel in Kilburn in which nine women died.
In May Cardinal Hume and Bishop Ellison of London made a joint statement on the housing crisis, in which they referred to the struggles voluntary organisations have in paying for essential repairs.
In its annual report, published this week. CHAS stresses that current trends in housing effectively discriminate against the poor and says that it is now seeking to "change the nature of (British) society" to make it more just.
Until now its main work has been to give individuals advice on housing problems. An attempt is thus made to influence individual decisions made by local authorities, building societies and housing associations in favour of CI IAS clients, it says.
But, says the report, so few people are helped in this way: "There is a need to examine the way in which the housing system is discriminating against the poor and for that reason CHAS has now launched a research programme." A series of projects on crucial housing issues has already begun.
The report says that research must be linked to direct action, which is the reason that CHAS combined with the Southwark Diocesan Council for Social Aid. Single Homelessness Group in issuing an election leaflet last year.
It quotes the late Archbishop Romero of El Salvador in affirming that Christians have a dots "to work through the various political choices suggested by faith and conscience" and saes that its aim is to work for a more just society.
The report highlights three key trends which it says are hurting the poor: they are the increase in the numbers living at or below the official poverty line, the rise in the number of home owners and the decline in the amount of council housing.
The report is available tree from CHAS,•189a Old Brompton Road, London SW5.