Deaths of Hastings homeless linked to damaging cuts

From: Cllr Andy Batsford

St Helens Road, Hastings

I was, as I know so many were, devastated by the news of the tragic deaths over the Christmas period of three people who in different ways were struggling to find a home and or battling complex issues of drug use and mental health issues.

Each and every one of the deaths is a personal tragedy that I do not want to simplify them down to money and resources, but it just can not be overlooked that we have gone from around two people officially being identified as rough sleeping in Hastings in 2007 to a hideous 32 and rising now counted homelessness every night on our streets and parks.

This is directly linked to the cuts to youth services, mental health services, probation services, local government funding and the harsh sanctions brought in with universal credits.

The whole protective multi-agency network Hastings delivered so effectively of local government, third sector agencies and volunteers has been stripped away leaving people vulnerable, destitute and yes, leading to people dying on our streets. I personally want to pay tribute to all the homelessness officers and the front line contact staff at Hastings Council who work tirelessly to counter all the issues I’ve stated with less and less funding and staff resources.

I also want to thank all those who volunteer their time at this time of year, especially Snowflakes who provide safe beds in churches and food all through these cold winter nights, those out on the streets delivering food and support such as Xtrax, Hope Kitchen, Dom’s Food Mission, Food Bank and Seaview to those living on the streets or sleeping in vulnerable unsafe accommodation .

The sad truth is we should not be expecting people to be volunteering their time doing this work or my staff spending hours a day reacting to tragic personal situations – this is a Dickensian problem made from cruel and divisive cuts to local funding by an out of touch and ideological Tory government.

And do let our MP tell you that the government is putting more money into homelessness issues – it’s just not true. The money she is quoting is the money that has always been given to local council to deal with housing issues. Just because you repackage it, it doesn’t mean it’s new money.

In real money there has been huge damaging cuts to all levels of support and you only have to walk down the streets and see the amount of rough sleepers to know what a massive effect on our communities these cuts are having.

I, as lead for housing at Hastings council, my officers and staff will not rest until we can provide an offer of a home and package of support for all families and people who find themselves homeless and I will call out this Government’s nasty policies and their political defenders and carry on highlighting the deadly effect they are having on our most vulnerable people in Hastings.