Rabbis from social justice group Tzelem have joined forces with the housing charity Shelter this week to campaign on housing rights. The agreement between Rabbis from Orthodox, Masorti, Liberal and Reform communities is to work with the campaigning group to highlight discrimination in the housing market and to work towards alleviating child poverty caused by a lack of social housing.
Nine rabbis who are already committed to housing and homelessness issues met with campaign executives at the charity’s central London headquarters to be briefed on the issue. Some of the rabbis have campaigned on housing in the past or already run homelessness schemes, such as Student Rabbi Elliot Karstadt who runs a night shelter as the trustee and chair of Together in Barnet.
Tzelem Coordinator, Student Rabbi Sarah Rosenbaum said “Each person present shared stories about their community’s interaction with homelessness. For some, the interaction is distant and for others, the issue is all too personal”.
The rabbis were briefed by Shelter’s Bryn Phillips and Chris Thorne on housing discrimination, especially against those receiving benefits. This has become worse since the Government’s austerity measures came in and local authorities have not been able to keep up with the demand for social housing, especially in London and the South East.
Chris Thorne told the rabbis: “Open discrimination against people on benefits is freely taking place. A recent survey of almost 4,000 private renters by YouGov found that almost a third of people receiving housing benefit said they hadn’t been able to rent a home due to a ‘No DSS’ policy in the last five years. This means hundreds of thousands of people may have come up against this type of discrimination in recent years.”
Commenting on the brief Sarah acknowledges” “We were able to gain a more nuanced understanding of the issues, Shelter’s campaigning strategies and goals and begin to create a vision for our future collaboration”
The group has agreed to bring about public awareness of the issue through their synagogues, interfaith coalitions and lobbying both politicians and major landlords.
Rabbi Alexander Goldberg said “I have seen with my own eyes the predicament of families in sub-standard and overcrowded housing across London and that includes many Jewish families. It’s heartbreaking to see and so unfair on the kid. We don’t speak out on this sort of issue enough, but decent housing is a universal right that is steeped in our prophetic tradition. By working together and with other faith communities I hope we can make a real change”.
The campaign will officially be launched around Passover and culminate at Succot with a series of events in communal Sukkahs across London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and across the UK.
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