A homeless person on Westminster Bridge
A homeless person on Westminster Bridge

Cllr Paul Gadsby is the Cabinet Member for Housing and a councillor in Vassall ward. This letter was published in the Guardian on Thursday 19 December 2019 – you can read the full article here

Shelter’s latest report paints a shocking picture of the homelessness crisis in England, but it is a sadly familiar one to councils on the front-line of this terrible situation (No home for 285,000 on Christmas Day in England, figures show, 17 December).

Behind the frightening statistics are real personal tragedies. When I was out with Lambeth’s rough sleeping team this week, I saw people sheltering in collapsing tents, shivering in the rain and in horrible personal distress. Almost everyone sleeping rough has been the victim of some form of physical, mental or sexual abuse.

Councils like Lambeth do all we can to help those in need: this week we have launched a new homelessness and rough sleeping strategy that commits £4m, despite government cuts to our budget, to rough sleeping services including 500 beds and rooms for rough sleepers. We help hundreds off the street each year, have built the first new council homes in a generation in the borough, and house thousands who need temporary accommodation. But every council in England is struggling to cope with rising numbers needing help.

The government needs to make addressing this housing crisis, in partnership with local councils – whatever their political colour – a key priority in 2020. We need support from government to build more homes, a revolution in standards, rights and rent levels in the private rented sector, and substantial funding for homeless services. Without this 2020 will see even more forced into the nightmare of homelessness.

Cllr Paul Gadsby

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