Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, is backing a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament that aims to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill, put forward By Bob Blackman MP (Con Harrow East) will be debated on Friday 28th October. It focuses on steps that councils like Cheltenham Borough, which have responsibility for housing, should take to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.
Alex said: “I’ve spoken with clients and workers in local charities like Open Door, Emmaus, P3 and CCP to explore how people get into crisis and what could be done to prevent it. The overwhelming message is early intervention and support.
“Every person sleeping rough is a tragedy. Homelessness acceptances are now less than half of what they were during their peak in 2003-04. But even one is one too many.”
A recent report by the Crisis Expert Panel, showed how the current legislation in England can be updated in light of the models adopted in Scotland and Wales.
Alex explained: “The law as it stands means that councils have a duty to provide advice on homelessness to anyone seeking help. But in order to qualify for more meaningful help, homeless people must be deemed to be in ‘priority need’. In practical terms, this covers families with children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Obviously many people fall outside these categories. They will receive advice, but they may not receive more practical support.
“Scotland and Wales have already reformed their homelessness legislation, so this is a vital chance for England to catch up. If passed, the Bill would require councils to provide practical help to anyone who is homeless or at risk of losing their home, regardless of whether they are deemed to be in ‘priority need’.”
Alex added: “The report recognises the causes of homelessness are varied and complex, and we have to accept that increased services may well mean increased investment. Across government we need to consider how to improve services, including around mental health and addiction support.”