Government must deliver on its promise to end rough sleeping

People walking past a homeless man in London

People walking past a homeless man in London - Credit: PA/Nick Ansell

This has been a tough year, and this Christmas period is much tougher than any of us were planning a few weeks ago.

Here in London we are being confined to our homes, separated from friends and family at time when we all usually come together to celebrate.

My thoughts are with those who are struggling with isolation and anxiety as a result, and of course everyone who has lost loved ones in this pandemic and those struggling with coronavirus themselves.

A sad reality is that many people do not even have a home at which to spend Christmas.

There are twice as many rough sleepers than there were ten years ago, and many are facing a cold, wet winter on the streets of a city with worryingly high rates of Covid-19 infection.

Research suggests that a third of councils and charities that provide shelter for the homeless expected there to be fewer beds this winter. Shelters are operating at a reduced capacity and some are sadly unsafe.

Homeless services don’t have all the tools they usually have at their disposal to help people off the streets due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions, and much of the community support that rough sleepers rely on will be reduced with high street footfall down. The impact of this and a lack of emergency beds could lead to the worst winter in a generation for far too many.

MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq.

MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq. - Credit: PA/Lauren Hurley

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Labour has been urging the government to guarantee that everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay during winter. That requires proper support for the councils and charities that have been working tirelessly to provide shelter and support to those who need it.

As crucial as this emergency support will be, it is imperative that the government delivers on its promise to end rough sleeping for good. Unfortunately, the figures have been going in the wrong direction, and the number of people dying homeless has risen by 50% since 2015.

The last Labour government showed that it was possible to dramatically reduce rough sleeping, and we made some important progress in housing people at the start of the pandemic.

Now is the time for leadership from the government to end the moral emergency of homelessness.

READ MORE: Making sure children get fed should be basic common sense

  • Tulip Siddiq (Lab) is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.