Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington, is calling on the Government to commit that no one in Manchester needs to spend this winter on the streets, with rough sleeping in the city having increased by a shocking 1300% since 2010.
Rough sleeping in the North West has increased by 249% since 2010, compared to an average increase of 141% for England.
With many night shelters closed because of Covid restrictions, and fears there will be thousands fewer beds available across the country, Labour has launched a campaign to ensure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.
Research by charity HomelessLink found one third of homeless organisations and local authorities expect to see a decrease in capacity this winter.
Other frontline charities have told Labour that rough sleepers are facing their worst winter yet. Testimony from organisations offering emergency beds – usually in church halls, community centres and similar buildings – includes:
- In one case, less than one third of the night shelter beds on offer last year will be available this winter, meaning around 6,500 rough sleepers risk being turned away
- Charities are also struggling with less than half the usual number of volunteers this year, reducing the help they can offer rough sleepers
- Concerns that the government’s threats to deport some foreign nationals who are sleeping rough could make it harder to help people who need support, as they will be less likely to seek or accept assistance
Before the pandemic, rough sleeping had already doubled over the 10 years of Conservative governments.
While many rough sleepers were given emergency accommodation during the spring lockdown, recent data suggests that more people are again sleeping on the streets. The number of new rough sleepers between April and June in London was up almost 80% on the previous year.
Labour are asking people to sign their petition urging the Government to give everyone a safe place to sleep this winter. You can do so here.
Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, said:
“Even before the crisis, rough sleeping was a shameful sign of government failure.
“This winter, without the last resort of night shelters, rough sleeping is more desperate than ever.
“The Government promised to end rough sleeping for good – it must ensure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.”
“Rough sleeping is not inevitable, but since 2010 we have seen the Tories slash investment for affordable homes, cut back housing benefit, reduce funding for homelessness services, and deny protection to private renters – and the number of rough sleepers has soared as a result.
“Before this crisis, the Government was already failing to meet its targets to reduce rough sleeping. But with homeless people or those at risk of homelessness now facing a particularly difficult winter due to Covid pressures, the Government must act urgently to take people off the streets for good.”