Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as rich as ours. Indeed, under the Labour Government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brow, rough sleeping had almost been eliminated.
Since 2010, under the Conservative led governments, the number of people sleeping rough has increased by 169%. I believe this figure is a terrible reminder of eight years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; billions of pounds cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness and drug and alcohol services.
In Redbridge we face challenges with regards to rough sleeping, with many rough sleepers unable to access public funds, this makes it very difficult. Redbridge Council are working with local voluntary organisations to help those with no recourse to public funds access the support they need. On the 1st December this year, Redbridge Council will be opening up another night shelter in Ilford, to provide rough sleepers in the borough with a place to stay.
To solve this problem long-term however, the government also needs to take action. I was disappointed that the Government’s rough sleeping strategy, published in August, contains no additional funding. If Ministers are serious about ending rough sleeping, I believe they should make 8,000 affordable homes immediately available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets; end the current practice of ‘no-fault’ evictions; and take action to strengthen tenants’ rights.