Healey promises Labour would end rough sleeping

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey
Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey
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Labour has pledged to end the “national shame” of rough sleeping within its next term in government - and challenged Theresa May to back the plan.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey, the Wentworth and Dearne MP, said there could be “no excuses” for homeless people being forced to sleep on the streets.

Labour would double the number of homes ring-fenced for rough sleepers by renewing and extending a housing scheme set up by Conservative former housing minister Lord (George) Young of Cookham in 1991.

The Clearing House scheme run by St Mungo’s charity on behalf of the Greater London Authority provides 3,750 flats in more than 40 housing associations in the capital for rough sleepers..

Labour would extend it to other major cities and create 4,000 permanent new reserved flats or houses for rough sleepers.

They would be let at “genuinely affordable” rents to British nationals or others eligible for social housing.

Rough sleeping has nearly doubled since 2010, with 3,569 people estimated to be out on the streets in England on any given night in 2015, compared to 1,768 in 2010.

Ahead of an Opposition debate in the Commons on homelessness, Mr Healey said: “Homelessness is not inevitable in a country as decent and well off as ours.

“This problem can be solved, but it demands a new national will to do so. The rapidly rising number of people sleeping in doorways and on park benches shames us all. There can be no excuses - it must end. Full stop.

“This growing homelessness should shame the Government most of all. The spiralling rise in street homelessness results directly from decisions made by ministers since 2010 on housing, and on funding for charities and councils.

“Under the last Labour government, years of sustained action brought rough sleeping right down, but it has doubled since 2010.

“A Labour government would put a stop to this national shame and provide homeless people with a place to call home and rebuild their lives.”

St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair welcomed the endorsement but warned homelessness was connected to issues beyond housing and required support on health, skills and relationships.