An end to homelessness

on .

By the time a homeless person appears in my surgery or at the reception desk at my local authority, this terrible moment of crisis invariably reflects many overlapping layers of human misery. There might have been a bereavement, an illness, injury or relationship breakdown, a tenancy might have come to an end either naturally or through an inability to pay the rent, they might be care leavers or suffering from mental health issues. But whatever the cause – or causes - homelessness remains one of the most shaming features of modern society. How can the fifth-largest economy in the world still be unable to house its citizens?

This was the point of Bob Blackman’s Private Members Bill which was debated in the House of Commons last week and why so many MPs of all parties turned up to vote unanimously in its favour. As he said, this will not be a ‘magic bullet’ that will clear the streets of homeless people overnight but what it will do is introduce a long-term cultural change which, over time, will bring about a different way of working among local authorities that will stop people from getting into the terrible position of being homeless in the first place.

In this area we are fortunate to have fantastic organisations such as Loose Ends and Two Saints which offer support and shelter to those on the streets. I am also involved with the Centre for Social Justice which is looking at the success of homelessness projects in the US and Finland to see how that could translate back here. Another excellent provision is the Nightstop UK service provided by the charity De Paul which gives free, safe, emergency accommodation for single young people in carefully vetted volunteers’ homes.

As the Minister said in the debate, the number of homeless has fallen by a commendable 58% from its peak in 2003-4. However, it is still a reality for too many. As this Bill now goes through to committee stage, we need to keep our focus on the fact that one person without a home is one too many.

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Richard Benyon was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Newbury on 7 May 2015, with an increased majority of 26,368. Richard won 61 per cent of the vote share.



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