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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Now Is The Time to End Homelessness

Friday, 12 June 2020

Since the beginning of the age of austerity in 2010 we have been facing a crisis of homelessness in this country. The latest figures we have from the government’s own website say that in autumn 2019 there were an estimated 3,130 people sleeping rough across the country, an increase of 131% since the start of the decade.
This doesn’t take into account the facts that the difficulty of counting rough sleepers means that the real number may be far higher than this, or that many people can be homeless without sleeping rough in emergency accommodation, hostels or couch surfing with friends or family. While in many cases individual factors such as domestic violence, family breakdown and alcohol or drug abuse have contributed to this rise it cannot be denied that budget cuts, a lack of affordable or social housing and the disaster that is Universal Credit have eroded our social security net, either putting people who were just about managing into difficulties or making it harder to get help to those who already need it.  
My view on homelessness is clear; it is indefensible both economically and morally. A person forced onto the street is a person that we have failed as a country. Making sure that every resident in Tameside has a roof over their heads has been one of my priorities as Leader, and thanks to the great work of our Homelessness Team the number of people sleeping rough in Tameside was reduced by 86%. No other council in England can point to those kinds of results. 

While the airwaves have been dominated by issues like PPE and testing, one of the more unreported stories of coronavirus is the impact it’s had on homelessness. Here in Tameside there was a very real fear that our good work over the past few years would be undone. Not only would the pandemic force more people onto the streets, but much of our hostel and emergency accommodation would be unusable since it gave residents no way to self-isolate.

A number of local authorities chose to solve this problem by putting rough sleepers up in temporary hotel accommodation in Manchester city centre. However we felt that this option could lead to further isolation problems for rough sleepers, an increased risk of addiction issues and the very real chance that relationships built up with individuals over many months would be lost. Instead we worked hard to place our homeless and rough sleepers in short-term rented properties within Tameside itself, giving them safe accommodation in which they could self-isolate while also allowing their Homelessness Team worker to keep in touch with them. They were also provided with food parcels and essential medication from our voluntary groups, as well as a range of support to help them continue to tackle the issues that led to their homelessness even during the lockdown. We’re now working with service users to ensure that they can maintain their own tenancies or, if this is not possible, to rehouse them in more permanent accommodation. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, this has prevented almost 100 people in Tameside from becoming homeless.
This fantastic work also highlights a wider point that many of us have been saying for years. Homelessness is not inevitable, and the only things stopping us ending it in Britain are a lack of money and political will.
When this pandemic ends we cannot and will not throw people back onto the street. I want the government to look at the successes in Tameside and other local authorities and give us the support we need to keep doing it. I want them to reverse the decade of cuts that deprived those at risk of homelessness of vital support. I want them to acknowledge that there is no excuse for people sleeping rough in the fifth-largest economy in the world.
As we begin to think about life after coronavirus, let’s have the courage and decency to choose a better way.


Posted by: Executive Leader

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