Fleur Anderson condemns “shameful” Tory record on homelessness
Labour candidate for Parliament, Fleur Anderson, is marking World Homeless Day
today (10 October) by highlighting the Government’s shameful record on homelessness, and calling on Boris Johnson to back Labour’s plans to end the scandal of people sleeping on our streets, as well as the wider problem of the “hidden homeless” families here in Wandsworth.
She told this website that since 2010 the figures have worsened year on year to unprecedented levels:
• The number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled, to almost 5,000 people on any given night;
• The number of people dying while homeless has risen by 51% in the last 5 years, to 726 last year; and
• The number of children who are homeless (who are often in unsuitable temporary accommodation) has risen by 69% to over 126,000.
In Wandsworth, it is thought that at least two people died homeless last year, while 27 people people were found sleeping rough in one local count by a homelessness charity in November 2018, and the Council’s own figures confirm that more than 2,700 homeless children are stuck living in temporary accommodation, sometimes for years, due to a lack of available social housing.
During Labour’s time in Government between 1997 and 2010, the Independent Homeless Monitor, a study compiled for the homelessness charity Crisis, recorded an “unprecedented” decline in homelessness. However, since 2010, homelessness has risen relentlessly as a direct result of the Government slashing investment in new affordable homes, cutting funding to councils and homeless charities, reducing housing benefit, and refusing to regulate a growing and unaffordable private rented sector.
The Labour Party has set out a clear plan to tackle the crisis of rising homelessness:
• commit to ending rough sleeping within five years, with a national taskforce;
• provide a new £100m fund to allow every person sleeping rough access to emergency winter accommodation;
• make 8,000 additional homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping; and
• act to tackle the root causes of homelessness by investing to build a million low-cost homes over a decade and giving renters stronger rights.
Fleur Anderson, commenting on these figures, said:“Last winter it was very distressing that so many people had to sleep in shop doorways in Putney High Street as they had nowhere else to go. I've volunteered with the charity Glass Door which offers emergency shelters, but the government should take urgent action and stop people dying on our streets”.
Local Councillor Claire Gilbert, who sits on the Housing & Regeneration Committee on Wandsworth Council said: “High and rising homelessness is not inevitable in a country as wealthy as ours, and there is much more we could be doing. No one should be dying on our streets. The health outcomes for people who become homeless are appalling. For example, average life expectancy for rough sleepers is 44 for men and 42 for women. It is too easy to underestimate the scale of the crisis and hidden homelessness - Crisis has found that over 12,000 people are sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport.
The challenges for people who become homeless to get back into secure housing and into work (if appropriate) are enormous. I am hugely supportive of the work by charities like Spear and Glass Door locally, and I will be accompanying Spear on their annual Rough Sleeper Count in Wandsworth this November. But the cold weather is already coming in, and we know that this puts lives at risk. Fleur Anderson is campaigning across these issues locally. We know how much it matters to resolve this issue with strong and compassionate policies. My advice to residents who want to help is always to make a donation to one of the expert charities in this area if you want to make a financial contribution, but please also write to your local representatives asking them to do more on this important issue”.
A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: "We simply don’t recognise some of the claims being made here, but while it’s certainly true that all councils in London are experiencing an increase in cases, it is worth pointing out that there are very few people sleeping rough on the streets and most people classed as homeless are residing in temporary accommodation with a roof over their heads while a permanent home is found for them. The majority of the temporary accommodation we provide is in self-contained homes within this borough.
“We work closely with a range of agencies to try and prevent rough sleeping and to offer people in this situation support and assistance. Earlier this year we successfully bid for just over £500,000 to help tackle the issue of rough sleeping in Wandsworth and this money is being used to support frontline staff who work closely with people who are homeless and living on the streets by providing a more targeted and personalised approach that can help them back into decent accommodation.
“In the wider context, we have approved a wide ranging package of measures, including buying and building new homes so we can ensure that people in genuine need receive help and support and can be offered permanent homes close to the areas they grew up in. We are also increasing the supply of affordable homes with 3,000 built over the past decade, another 1,700 due to be completed within the next three years and a target of 18,000 over the coming decade.”
October 10, 2019