Bury North MP James Frith handed over piles of warm clothing donated to his office and the Freedom Church by the public to the Bury Homeless Breakfast Club shortly before Christmas and gave his backing to Labour’s radical new national offer of emergency shelter for every rough sleeper during cold weather.
The Labour Party’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP said it “beggars belief” that in twenty-first century Britain there are parts of the country in which there is little or no shelter for those sleeping on the streets during extreme cold weather, and that the Government doesn’t even know which areas have this provision.
Figures collected by the Government reveal that in the North West alone, 434 people slept rough on the street on one night last year, up 334% since 2010.
Since October last year, an estimated 484 people have died homeless, including during the ‘beast from the east’ cold spell between February and March last year. Last winter one in four severe weather services had to turn rough sleepers away.
Under Labour’s plans, funding will be provided for emergency accommodation in every area, for every rough sleeper whenever local temperatures are set to fall below freezing.
The new national offer will be funded through a new Rough Sleepers Cold Weather Fund, set at £100m in the first year, and paid for by a previously announced second homes levy. As well as extra emergency shelter, this will also fund key workers to link rough sleepers with health and housing support to keep them off the streets for good, given that cold weather enables contact with rough sleepers that are otherwise hard to reach.
The announcement forms part of the Labour Party’s plan to end rough sleeping within the first term of the next Labour Government.
James said: “I want to thank all the local people who donated clothes to my office and through the Freedom Church. They will go to those most in need. My thanks too to the volunteers at the Homeless Breakfast Club and other brilliant local groups doing so much to support rough sleepers and the homeless in our borough.
“However, it should be the job of the government to do everything possible to ensure no one has to sleep on the street and I’m proud to back Labour’s bold new plan to ensure that every rough sleeper has a bed and a roof over their head every night.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP said: “To our national shame, thousands of people will sleep rough on park benches and shop doorways this winter. It beggars belief that there is no guarantee of basic emergency accommodation for these people during cold weather.
“Rough sleeping has risen every years since 2010 as a direct result of decisions made by Conservative Ministers, and the problem is getting worse.
“Labour’s plan will save lives and needs to put in place now.
“Labour will give every rough sleeper a roof over their head, and tackle the root causes of rising homelessness with an end to the freeze on benefits, new rights for renters and a million low-cost homes.”