Blog piece by James, local Green Party Member.
Too busy during her tenure as Home Secretary telling people ‘in the UK illegally’, must ‘go home or face arrest’, Theresa May appeared to miss the apocalyptic spike in homelessness brought about by David Cameron’s commitment to austerity.
A 52 percent spike since 2010 to be exact. Homelessness in the UK- despite Brexit, still one of the world’s wealthiest nations- has been permitted to rise to appalling heights.
Since becoming Prime Minister, May has indicated, (with a series of promises to commit money to tackling the problem,) that she is at least less indifferent than her predecessor to the immiseration of those left without a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, her monetary pledges come rather too late for those already suffering sub-zero temperatures on the streets of Brighton and Hove.
Over the last few years, the sight of drained figures sat in the City’s doorsteps; hunched against the cold or trying to sleep, has become far more prevalent. Indeed, I need not stray far from the main roads in the centre of town, occupied by shoppers, to encounter groups so resigned to their misfortune that they have erected tents in alley-ways as a last resort.
With the exception of London, Brighton and Hove now has the highest rate of Homelessness in the country. According to Shelter, 4,095 people are homeless; many regularly facing nights in temperatures reaching minus eight. In fact, one in sixty-nine of Brighton and Hove’s residents are without a home and 1,800 children currently living in temporary or emergency housing.
In an attempt, at the very least, to tackle the tragedy that is rough sleeping, we need to bring those living on the streets into the warmth. Brighton and Hove hosts an enormous number of empty buildings; more than enough to ensure that no resident of our City need endure the cold, hard humiliation of rough sleeping.
Green Councillor Tom Druitt yesterday placed a motion to the council which called for urgent action to be taken. “Sleeping on the streets kills,” he said “and campaigners have already highlighted the deaths of more than three rough sleepers in the city over the festive period. It seems crazy that during this time we have empty houses, shops, offices and other commercial premises that could be used to offer relief, and yet they are not used.”
While the Green Party are committed to resolving this issue, one which simply should not arise in a wealthy county like ours, support from the public is vital in achieving this aim. 38degrees has been running a petition for months now and is tantalisingly close to the requisite 4,000 signatures. Just because Downing street is content to tolerate the blight of homelessness, it doesn’t mean we must.