Homelessness is an urgent priority that must be tackled. The fact that anyone in the 21st century has to sleep rough, or exist without a permanent home, is an absolute disgrace and one that, sadly, is an indictment of this Government’s approach to public services.
I am proud that under the last Labour Government we virtually ended rough sleeping, which had been endemic throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, yet after 8 years of austerity the numbers of people sleeping rough is rapidly rising once again.
The 2017 Labour Party manifesto set out our intention to end homelessness in the UK. This will be achieved by setting out a new national plan on homelessness, and creating an additional 4,000 homes reserved for those with a history of rough sleeping.
As well as tackling the symptoms, however, we must also tackle the cause. Labour will properly fund mental health and addiction services, protect specialist homelessness hostels and reverse the Tory cuts to housing benefits that have pushed so many into a crisis situation.
I was recently elected as the first Mayor of the Sheffield City Region in May 2018. During that mayoral campaign, I set out my own agenda for tackling homelessness: including establishing an SCR Homelessness Network to co-ordinate the response the homelessness across the four boroughs of South Yorkshire; campaigning for more resources for councils to provide support for homelessness; and committing some of my Mayor’s Community Fund to support homeless people in finding accommodation and a longer-term pathway to a more secure future.