Today the Government published its figures for rough sleeper numbers in England and Wales in 2018. The numbers remain far more than double what they were in 2010, when Cameron and Clegg’s Coalition came to power and began implementing harsh cuts on the interlinked support services that prevent people from becoming homeless. Taking an axe to mental health services, affordable housing budgets, drug and alcohol cessation services, benefits and councils have all taken a terrible toll.
I co-chair the All Party Parliamentary Ending Homelessness Group and the continued rise in rough sleeping in London in 2018 (13%) is shameful. The slight fall suggested across England comes amid charities in the sector demanding the data used is strengthened as the figures are based on just one approximate count on one night by councils. The figures follow an annual increase in rough sleeping and homelessness every year since Labour left office in 2010. If there has been a small drop this year, it is only a start and more concerted action is required.
On Thursday 7th February, I’m leading a parliamentary debate on rough sleeping which will provide a greater chance to discuss the latest figures, the shameful number of people still rough sleeping, and ideas to improve the situation.
In this colder weather, the public raise more concerns about rough sleepers and want greater action. The Mayor has raised extra funding for severe weather emergency programme (SWEP) shelters and asked the public to help in the face of insufficient Government resources or attention. Londoners were very generous last year and will I hope step in again in the absence of a national focus. The Prime Minister has somehow found millions of pounds for a ferry company with no ferries to aid the shipwreck of her Brexit plans, but fails to fund the often simple policies that could end homelessness.
Temperatures are still low; if you see anyone sleeping rough, please help refer them to emergency shelters through Streetlink. You can do this online or through their app, or by calling them on: 0300 500 0914. You need to describe the person/people you have seen, where they are and at what time of day. I have pressed the Government to provide adequate funding for Streetlink to operate due to the continued rise in rough sleeping in London, but Ministers have failed to listen (https://tinyurl.com/yd6q8m3j and https://tinyurl.com/yb8qcjun). Please consider volunteering with, or donating to Streetlink to keep their vital support running.