Labour has unveiled a pledge to effectively end rough sleeping, doubling the number of homes reserved for people sleeping on the streets and park benches.
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey warned rough sleeping has surged since 2010, and argues the UK is “too decent and too well off” to ignore the problem.
As part of its promise in the first term of government, Labour said it would revive the Rough Sleepers Initiative started by Tory housing minister Sir George Young in 1991 and carried on by Labour under Tony Blair.
It used outreach teams to find rough sleepers and refer them to safe houses.
Under Labour’s new plan, 4,000 permanent extra housing association homes would be created, and an existing ‘clearing house’ scheme in London would be extended beyond the capital to cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester.
Just 464 rough sleepers were recorded in 2009. A new measure was introduced a year later, and since then the total has soared to 3,569 people in 2015.
Healey told HuffPost UK:
“Homelessness is not inevitable. Are we really prepared to put up with people sleeping in doorways and on park benches in a country as well off as we are?
“This reduction in numbers of rough sleepers has been done before. We can do it again.”
His words came ahead of Labour’s Opposition Day debate in the Commons on homelessness. A recent report by Shelter said that 120,000 children were facing Christmas without a secure home and new statistics are expected on Thursday on the scale of the problem.
Labour wants Theresa May to match the proposal by striking an agreement with housing associations to make the accommodation available now, and provide funding for replacements.
“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.
“This growing homelessness should shame the government most of all. The spiralling rise in street homelessness results directly from decisions made by Ministers since 2010 on housing, and on funding for charities and councils.
“Under the last Labour government, years of sustained action brought rough sleeping right down, but it has doubled since 2010.
“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.”