Pledge to ringfence housing welcomed by charities
Labour threw down a gauntlet today with a plan to give thousands of homes to rough sleepers.
Ahead of an opposition day debate today on homelessness, Labour pledged to double the number of homes ringfenced for rough sleepers and expand the Clearing House scheme run by St Mungo’s charity for the Greater London Authority.
The scheme, set up by then Tory housing minister Lord Young in 1991, provides 3,750 flats in 40 housing associations across London for homeless people.
Labour said in government it would extend this to cities like Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester, and create 4,000 permanent new reserved flats or houses for rough sleepers, let at affordable rents to British nationals or others eligible for social housing.
The party called on Theresa May to back the scheme by striking a deal with housing associations to make the homes available now and by funding replacements.
John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said:
“Homelessness is not inevitable in a country as decent and well off as ours.
This problem can be solved, but it demands a new national will to do so. The rapidly rising number of people sleeping in doorways and on park benches shames us all. There can be no excuses – it must end. Full stop.”
Rough sleeping has nearly doubled since the Tories took power in 2010, with 3,569 people living on the streets in England on any given night last year, compared to 1,768 in 2010.
Healey said: this was a direct result of Tory decisions on housing, funding charities and councils, noting that rough sleeping was curbed under Labour. He added:
“A Labour government would put a stop to this national shame and provide homeless people with a place to call home and rebuild their lives.”
Labour’s pledge was welcomed by homeless charities, but they called on politicians to go further. Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at Centrepoint, said:
“Ring-fencing homes to support people who have slept on the streets is an important first step, but accommodation is only one part of the equation.
Homelessness is a scarring experience. The Government must also ensure that charities and local councils have the funding to support homeless young people with their health and learning needs too.”
He added that ‘spiralling rents’ in big cities must be tackled to help young people become trapped in hostels.
St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair said:
“We are pleased to hear a commitment to extending the London-based Clearing House scheme, which provides homes for vulnerable people who have slept rough. …
But homelessness is about more than housing. Homeless people are also often facing challenging health issues, needing to improve skills and employability and wanting to form, and keep, positive relationships for moving on.”
A response by the Department for Communities and Local Government said rough sleeping reported by local authorities is half what it was during a 2–3 peak, but said “one person without a home is one too many”.
£500 million has been invested in tackling homelessness, it added, including £50 million for local councils, and a £9.4 billion housebuilding programme, which it called the biggest since the 1970s.
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