One upon a time, rough sleepers were something you’d see in places like central Manchester, or any big city across the country.
But sadly these days it’s visible in many local communities and you can’t fail to notice that more and more people are sleeping on our streets even in places like Tameside.
But what is equally shocking is the fact that we are now beginning to see a real sharp rise in homelessness among children and older people – this is an absolute disgrace to be happening anywhere in 2018, let alone in the one of the richest countries in the world.
By the half way stage of the year over 120,000 children in the UK were forced to live in temporary accommodation, often tiny bed and breakfasts. On top of this the number of people accepted as homeless aged 60 and over has increased by 40% in the last year alone.
In the past we may have seen this type of homelessness occur in individuals and families who had lost work or had no income. Yet for the first time in half a century we are seeing families with at least one or more breadwinner struggling to cope which has resulted in over half of those in temporary accommodation actually being in work. It can never be right that someone in full-time employment still cannot afford to put a roof over their families’ heads.
The charity Shelter said the increase has been caused by a combination of sky-high private rents, and a chronic lack of affordable social homes.
Let us be under no illusion, the rise in homelessness is a direct result of Tory decisions made in London. While in power they have presided over a steep drop in investment for affordable homes, cuts to housing benefit to working families, as well as reducing funding for homelessness services and a refusal to reform the private housing sector.
Labour’s record in housing between 1997 and 2010 is clear: two million more homes, a million more home-owners and the biggest investment in social housing in a generation.
In our 2017 manifesto we were clear that we would build at least a million homes over the course of a five year Parliament because our families need decent and affordable homes. This should not be a dream or distant aspiration, it should be the minimum reward for hard-work and sacrifice.
Locally Andy Burnham has an extremely ambitious target to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020. Since becoming Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy has sought to hit the ground running to meet this target.
In the last year Andy has secured a £1.8m social impact bond, as well as an £8m Housing First pilot. Both of these projects are aimed at getting rough sleepers with complex needs off the streets alongside a ‘Homelessness Action Network’ aimed at bringing all the region’s stakeholders together on the problem together with a new business network in order to tap into more funding.
Locally we’ve got many organisations doing amazing work in the community, one such example is Emmaus in Mossley. When I visited them at the end of last year I was staggered to find that Emmaus was much more than your everyday charity shop but somewhere a person could rebuild their lives.
They provide a home for as long as someone needs it as well as meaningful work in their social enterprise. By living in a stable environment with the opportunity to work through many complex issues, residents regain lost self-esteem and rebuild the confidence they need to get back on their feet.
Our Council Leader Brenda Warrington is committed to working with Andy to ensure that rough sleeping is reduced as much as possible across Tameside, now all we need is some leadership from Westminster to help overcome this scourge.