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A new bill, proposed by the Conservative MP, could transform homeless services and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
The ‘Homeless Reduction Bill’ is being proposed by Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East who is also a member of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee.
It is supported by homeless charities including Crisis and St Mungo’s, and will require all councils in England to take action to prevent people from becoming homeless.
Blackman said the bill would be a major step forward in tackling homelessness. “During the CLG Committee’s recent inquiry into homelessness, I heard disturbing first-hand accounts from people who’d been forced to sleep on the streets because they couldn’t get the help they needed,” he added.
“We cannot stand by and allow this to continue. That’s why I’m calling on my fellow MPs to help put an end to this injustice once and for all by supporting my Bill.”
The announcement came on the same day of the release a survey of rough sleeping completed by the Combined Homelessness Information Network (CHAIN) showed a seven per cent increase in the number of rough sleepers.
The London total rose to 8,096 people from 7,581 in 2015. Of those, 5,276 were new rough sleepers, the equivalent of 14 people sleeping rough for the first time every single night. The previous year the total was 6,508.
Dominic Williamson, the St Mungo’s executive director of strategy and policy, said: “Last year saw a 30 per cent increase in people sleeping rough in England. This is completely unacceptable. It is high time for further action to stop this scandal and we urge MPs to get behind this momentous opportunity to improve the support on offer to prevent and relieve homelessness before even more lives are damaged.”
Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes claimed the bill could transform how England tackles homelessness. In Scotland, local authorities have a duty to house everyone who is unintentionally homeless, though in practice this does not always happen.
Sparks added: “It offers an historic opportunity, and if passed, would represent one of the most important developments for homelessness in nearly 40 years.
“Homelessness isn’t inevitable, yet the law as it stands in England means that single homeless people who go to their councils for help can be turned away with no option but to sleep on the streets. This is unacceptable.
“There is a wealth of evidence, opinion and support for a change in the law on homelessness in England, and we urge MPs from all parties to get behind this historic bill.”