The independent London newspaper

Rough sleeping is a national catastrophe

07 February, 2019

‘Rough-sleeping should not be inevitable in the world’s sixth richest country’

• IT is a national source of shame that thousands of vulnerable individuals have been sleeping in freezing conditions.

Rough-sleeping should not be inevitable in the world’s sixth richest country, but too many in our government treat it as an unavoidable fact of life. Ministers must finally address this clear failure in policy-making and ensure everyone has a safe place to sleep.

In autumn 2018 over 4,600 people in England were recorded as rough sleepers, marking an increase of 2,909 since 2010.

Camden has the second highest number of rough-sleepers in the country, despite interventions from the council, such as the Streetsafe service, that provides emergency cold weather beds for rough sleepers across the borough.

Housing and homelessness charities such as Shelter and Crisis UK are clear in their view that the increase in rough sleeping has resulted from a toxic combination of pressures, which includes the austerity forced upon councils and the absence of a safety net for individuals who unexpectedly encounter personal or financial difficulties.

From soaring rents to a woeful lack of social housing provision, far too many have been left with nowhere to turn. The Local Government Asso­ciation have pin­pointed a funding gap of more than £100m as the major obstacle to councils’ ability to reverse the tide on rough sleeping.

In Camden alone, £35m of further savings are required by 2022 in addition to £169m of cuts that have been endured since 2011.

The Labour manifesto proposed a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next parliament. It would begin by reserving 4,000 additional homes for people with a history of rough sleeping, and would immediately safeguard individuals in homeless hostels and other supported housing from any further unforgivable cuts to housing benefit.

Rough-sleeping is a national catastrophe and it is within politicians’ gift to drastically change the picture on our streets. The government must act decisively to end rough sleeping once and for all.

Labour, Hampstead & Kilburn


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