Postal address change needed to prevent homelessness

Citizens Advice has revealed an unnecessary catch-22 that is stopping homeless people accessing public services because they don’t have a fixed postal address.

The organisation says that failure to receive important correspondence from public services, including banks, healthcare, Jobcentres, courts and housing services, can have serious consequences for those who are either homeless or facing homelessness, such as having their benefits sanctioned, dropping down waiting lists and even missing out on offers of housing.

Therefore, the consumer watchdog wants Royal Mail and Post Office to take the initiative to allow an estimated 320,000 homeless people in Britain to access postal services. At present, eight in 10 of its advisers said homeless people always experience difficulty accessing benefits because they don’t have a fixed address. Opening a bank account was also a challenge, according to seven in 10 advisers.

Recommending two potential solutions, Citizen’s Advice suggests that a free PO box-type system should be established for homeless people, alongside an adjusted form of Poste Restante - a system that allows you to have your post sent to and collected from one of the country’s 11,500 post office branches - for homeless people.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “With Christmas almost upon us, many people will be eagerly awaiting post and presents from loved ones. However, if you’re homeless receiving your post can mean much more - it can be the difference between sleeping rough or receiving long-awaited accommodation.

“Our recommendations provide a simple solution to this unnecessary and damaging cycle, and homeless people, their support staff, and four in five MPs agree addressing it is important. We’d like to see Royal Mail and Post Office trial our recommendations and work with them to end this catch-22 and help homeless people get back on their feet.”