The Liberal Democrats have become the first major party of this election to commit to ending the “national scandal” of rough sleeping across Britain, including in Newbury and West Berkshire.
Latest official figures for West Berkshire show that 14 people were sleeping rough in Newbury in the Autumn of 2016, almost double the number of people in 2013. Local groups who work with homeless people, such as Loose Ends and West Berkshire Homeless, put the current number much higher at 25 people.
It is a scandal that so many people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain.
Here in Newbury, we all know that as well as the people who have been ‘counted’, many more sofa surf or are in insecure accommodation for only the occasional night, and we know we have single homeless people and couples who are sleeping rough. That is why I welcome this commitment by the Liberal Democrats to end homelessness in the UK.
The series of measures to end rough sleeping, laid out by the Liberal Democrat national party, include introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority that would put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.
The news comes as a coalition of homelessness charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.
By increasing practical support for homelessness prevention and properly funding emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping in Newbury and West Berkshire and across the country.
We will ensure that each local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes.
The evidence suggests that supporting people with a long-term, stable place to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them through the chain of different temporary accommodations.
Under this government, homelessness has soared and young people are being been stripped of housing benefit, threatening to make matters even worse.
This election is a chance to change the direction of this country and stand up for a can-do Britain that is open, tolerant and united.