AS MANY as 280,000 people will be homeless, or living in temporary housing and hostels, in England on Christmas Day, the charity Shelter has said.
The charity’s new figure is 3600 higher than last year, and 23,000 more than that of the year before. It is estimated that the true number is higher, because people stay with friends or in tents.
Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate, said on Tuesday: “As well as those facing serious ill health, or even death, sleeping rough on our streets this winter, there are thousands of families trapped in grotty emergency B&Bs, with no space for children to sit and eat, let alone play. This is the grim truth our new Government must confront and do something radical to change.”
On Monday, the organisation Taxpayers Against Poverty launched its Social Housing, Affordable Rents and Elimination of Homelessness Bill, which seeks to eliminate homelessness.
Writing in last week’s Church Times (Letters, 13 December), its chairman, the Revd Paul Nicolson, said: “Our Bill requires local councils to count all the homeless in their borough and the empty properties and land; and then to submit that information to the Secretary of State, who is required to finance the placing of homeless families and individuals permanently in the unused land and property as a priority.
“The Bill also defines affordable housing. It is unaffordable for the tenant if, after paying rent, income, and council tax, the tenant’s income falls below a reasonable minimum, having regard to the health and well-being of all the tenant’s household. The good health and well-being of all UK citizens in or out of work must now become a national priority.”
At its launch on Monday, Mr Nicolson said that “no priority” was being given to the tens of thousands of families who were homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
“There are no plans, none at all, in sight at national, London, or local level to settle these families and children, or individuals who are dying on the streets, into secure, permanent homes of their own, in safe communities.”
He said that housing was not the solution, as it would take too long, and rents were too high, which would lead to more homelessness. “All levels of government seem to have become overwhelmed by the vast scale of homelessness,” he said.
In an interview on Radio 4’s Sunday programme, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, who chairs Manchester’s Homelessness Partnership, said that homelessness had got worse during his tenure.
He said: “It has got visibly worse in the six years or so that I’ve been back in my home city as its bishop. Over those years of austerity, we’ve seen the holes in the welfare safety net get bigger and bigger, and more people are falling through. If we can pick those people up in the early stages, before they’ve had months and years on the street, there’s a chance of helping them rebuild their lives. It’s very expensive, it’s very difficult, when someone has become an entrenched rough-sleeper.
“It is about different people working together . . . all trying to find where the gaps are; doing that with people who have experience of being homeless themselves. We call that, in Manchester, co-production, co-design.”