More homeless in major U K cities

Ceren Sagir

Rough sleeping rose in most major cities in England last year, government figures revealed on Thursday, with thousands left to languish on the streets as temperatures drop below zero. The findings by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) showed that more than 4,600 people slept on the streets on any given night last autumn – up 165 per cent since records began in 2010.
Across England, the number of rough sleepers rose by 13 per cent in London, 60 per cent in Birmingham and 31 per cent in Manchester. The place with the largest number of rough sleepers was London’s Westminster, with 306 people on the streets the night the survey was taken, up by 41 per cent since 2010. London accounted for 27 per cent of the total number of people sleeping rough in England, up from 24 per cent in 2017. The data came as the capital’s temperatures dropped to minus 6.4°C overnight.
Centrepoint head of public affairs Paul Noblet warned there were “many more hidden homeless people” in unsafe accommodation and that the figures were “only the tip of a much larger iceberg.” Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said that “fundamental action” was needed to tackle the root causes of homelessness and urged the government to invest in building three million more social homes over the next 20 years. “You can’t solve homelessness without homes,” she said. “The combination of spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and lack of social housing means the number of people forced to sleep rough has risen dramatically since 2010. “Anyone who is forced to sleep in shop doorways or on the night bus is the end result of a broken housing system.”
Local authorities warned that preventing rough sleeping was “becoming increasingly difficult” as services face a funding gap of more than £100 million in 2019-20. Local Government Association housing spokesman Martin Tett said “proper resourcing” of local government funding was “essential” in ending homelessness.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the “desperately disappointing” figures underestimate the reality, urging ministers to do “much more to make good the huge damage done over the last eight years.”
The Labour MP added: “This new count shows that rough-sleeping has more than doubled since 2010, but even these figures mask the true scale of the problem, as the government’s numbers are well known to be flawed and a massive undercount of the true level of rough sleeping.
“Ministers must now back Labour’s plans to end rough sleeping, starting with a guarantee of emergency accommodation for every rough sleeper in this cold weather and 8,000 homes to keep those who have slept rough off the streets for good.”
The Unite union has taken the unprecedented step of opening its HQ offices in Holborn, central London, to give shelter to the homeless for at least three nights during the winter snap.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The UK is the sixth biggest economy on the planet; it ought to be capable of putting a roof over the head of every citizen, but the fact that it does not is the direct consequence of failed Conservative austerity policies.
“Prime Minister Theresa May needs to acknowledge that the harsh austerity regime is not over by a long chalk. The people who slept in camp beds at Unite’s headquarters have no place to call home, which is a tragic reminder that the government’s continuing cuts are destroying lives.”(IPA)

Thursday, 7 February, 2019