More than 320,000 people are homeless in Britain today. Rough sleeping is up 169% since the Tories took power. At least 597 human beings died on the streets last year.
Homelessness is not an individual choice - it is a political choice.
Homelessness is a choice being made every day by those in power. Its the choice made in every cut to welfare benefits for the worst off and every cut to mental health and addiction services.
It stems from every choice to let buildings stand empty, accruing capital for a few, while human beings sit shivering outside.
Every choice to let rents soar while wages stagnate. Every choice by public figures to use stigmatising and dehumanising rhetoric. Every choice to prioritise profits over people.
To solve this crisis, we need a Labour government, Labour councils, and a Labour movement across the country standing up for the rights of the most marginalised, and tackling the roots of homelessness by building a society that works for the many, not a privileged few.
Homelessness is complex - it occurs for complex reasons and requires comprehensive strategies to overcome. When it occurs, it breaks bonds of trust in society that need to be restored, bit by bit. We believe a Labour Party standing in solidarity with the most marginalised can help.
The homelessness crisis is a political choice, and solving it requires a political solution. The Tory government’s ideological project of austerity has starved vital services of resources, and driven homelessness through the roof.
At the same time, those forced out onto the streets are often treated like criminals. The 1824 Vagrancy Act is still in effect and in use, making homelessness a criminal offence. Rough sleepers are moved on, stigmatised, their belongings taken, and their voices ignored.
Our campaign will feed into Labour’s manifesto and policy creation, to ensure Labour is ambitious in its commitment to ending homelessness by giving every homeless person the dignity and security of a permanent home, and ensuring that this country has enough affordable homes for everyone. Across the country, Labour is already in power, in many of the urban local authorities with the greatest concentration of homelessness. We aim to identify best practice among Labour councils and push to ensure Labour in power always has a response to homelessness in tune with Labour values, is open to innovative and community-led means of getting people off the streets, and is treating homelessness as a societal ill and not individual criminal behaviour.
We demand an end to the criminalisation of homelessness. One Tory council leader in Windsor recently sought to use the Vagrancy Act and anti-social behaviour legislation to clear rough sleepers out of town as part of royal wedding preparations. No longer can grotesque injustices like this be allowed. Rough sleepers are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. No law should target them on the basis of their being homeless.
We want to ensure that the voices of people experiencing homelessness are heard in the halls of power. Our own campaign will seek to put the voices of people with lived experience of homelessness at the fore. Some areas have introduced local forums that bring together people with lived experience of homelessness, charities, activists, and council officials, to help build trust across communities and reach better solutions. We will support projects like these and amplify the voices of the most marginalised in our society.
We are a network of homelessness activists and volunteers from around the country. We want to be a link between different activist groups, allowing them to share ideas and support each other, and showing Labour is on their side.
We want to encourage more Labour members to volunteer and participate in homelessness solidarity work, making a real difference in the lives of society’s most disadvantaged. Our party has well over half a million members, committed to transforming society for the many. But there is more that we can do, today, to help the worst off.
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