Gavin Barwell, the Tory MP for Croydon Central and now housing minister in Theresa May’s government, has described homelessness in Britain as “a moral shame on us”.According to official figures, there are 12 times as many people sleeping rough in Barwell’s home borough today as there were in 2010, when Barwell was first elected as an MP in a Conservative-led government.
Barwell made his remarks when speaking in Croydon on Saturday at an event organised by a group of agencies and charities seeking to eliminate homelessness in the borough by 2020.
Last week, more than 100 volunteers, some of whom had responded to an appeal publicised by Inside Croydon, went out as part of the CR Zero project and spoke to homeless people around the borough to gather information about who they are and what they need to successfully move into accommodation. The volunteers approached 64 rough sleepers, 42 of whom completed surveys. The ages of the rough sleepers ranged from 18 to 67. Between them, the homeless people had attended hospital accident and emergency departments 53 times in the past six months.
According to government statistics, the number of rough sleepers in the borough had reached 51 by 2015. There were just four rough sleepers reported in the borough in 2010.
Croydon Nightwatch, the local charity which delivers hot food and other support to the homeless and needy in the town centre each night, has repeatedly warned that homelessness levels in Croydon have reached crisis levels.
Croydon Nightwatch’s own conference on homelessness takes place later this month. Further details of how to attend can be found here.
The new housing minister does not appear to have made the connection between his government’s policies and rising levels of homelessness.
Speaking on Saturday, according to a report on Inside Housing, Barwell said, “In a way it is a moral shame on us that in this year we still see these problems on our streets.
“At Westminster we will be looking at, in a few weeks’ time, some proposed changes to the law in relation to the duties that are put on councils and the responsibilities of government to deal with those problems, and we will be talking about it at that level.”
Barwell did at least accept that his government would need to fund any additional services that local authorities would have to provide. “Absolutely there are responsibilities on government, parliament and the council but it also needs that level of community engagement,” he said. “It is also important to get processes right locally,” Barwell said.
Barwell, from the political party which introduced the Bedroom Tax, claimed that there is a “passion” to do something about homelessness across all parties. “And money is part of it”.
He referred to people sleeping rough as “probably the most visible indicator of the profound housing problems that we have in this country that it is now my job to try and tackle”.
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