Homelessness is one of the great social injustices. We must do all we can to protect those at risk of sleeping rough and those already living on the streets.
There are often complex reasons why someone becomes homeless which, very often, go hand-in-hand with other serious issues such as domestic abuse, addiction, mental health issues or redundancy. These are challenging problems. Therefore, it is right that the Government is stepping-up efforts to prevent homelessness and support those affected. It is this time of year that brings the issue of homelessness into the sharpest relief; not only are Christmas and the festive holidays the time when we come together at home with our families but it is also when the cold of winter really hits. From Ark Helenswood Year 8 students raising money and knitting scarves for the community group Warming up the Homeless, to the annual open event in St Andrew’s Square organised by Surviving Christmas, there are many examples of our community coming together to assist our most vulnerable during this difficult period.
Our commitment to helping the homeless in Hastings and Rye is year-round. I am pleased to have supported remarkable charities such as the Seaview Project and Emmaus in their work to provide local rough sleepers with a brighter future. As a government, we recently unveiled plans for a £50 million funding boost for new homelessness prevention schemes. Of this, £20 million will be set aside for rough sleeping grants to provide targeted support for those at imminent risk of sleeping rough or those new to the streets. Both Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council were successful bidders for some of this funding. This will see government money having a real impact on the lives of homeless people in Hastings and Rye. In addition, East Sussex County Council has been part of a successful bid for a share of £10 million in locally commissioned Social Impact Bonds. This will allow trials of Housing First which sees housing as an individual’s primary need – where the provision of permanent accommodation for those currently sleeping on the street offers the gateway to addressing wider and more complex support needs.
These will build on the Government’s existing commitments to tackle homelessness: £149 million central funding over the next 4 years, £315 million homelessness prevention funding for local authorities, £100 million for at least 2,000 low cost accommodation places, and support for the Homelessness Reduction Bill in Parliament.
I recognise that there will always be more to do - each person without a home is one too many - but, when government, charities, councils and volunteers all work together, it can make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I look forward to continuing to see this in action in Hastings and Rye as our communities come together to help make sure that everyone receives the support they need to realise their potential, no matter what their personal circumstances.