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From: The Socialist issue 922, 26 October 2016: Protest and strike to save our NHS

Search site for keywords: Homeless - Housing - Homelessness - Government - Shelter - Rents - Benefits - Local government - Accommodation

Homeless told to sleep rough: councils must build housing

Councils have told homeless people to sleep rough in order to get help

Councils have told homeless people to sleep rough in order to get help   (Click to enlarge)

Jack Jeffery, homelessness support worker

Homeless charity St Mungo's has released a report detailing that many of its clients had been advised by councils to sleep rough before they could access services.

This will ring true with anyone who works in housing. A combination of rising rents, diminishing social housing, and vindictive cuts to benefits are pushing more and more people into homelessness.

I work for a homeless charity in London that runs a small shelter for around 30 people. The conditions aren't glamorous; the shelter consists of four large rooms turned into bedrooms in the evening by bringing out camp beds.

Despite this, most mornings there are two to three people sleeping on the step outside. Unfortunately, now it's October, the shelter is already full. The best we can offer them is a place on our growing waiting list as all the other shelters are full.

Right-wing politicians and newspapers often paint homeless people as irresponsible and unable to manage a normal life. However, a look at the government's own statistics shows the most common cause of homelessness is the end of a shorthold tenancy. Hardly surprising in a country where rents soar while wages stagnate.

The new Homelessness Reduction Bill, a private member's bill introduced by a Tory backbencher, is due for its second reading on 28 October.

This might improve the standard of advice given by councils. But ultimately it will do little to help, because a clause guaranteeing all non-priority homeless applicants 56 days of emergency accommodation was deemed 'not feasible' by parliament's local government and communities committee. It is likely to be removed.

What would end homelessness? Secure social housing, jobs, a living wage and living benefits for all - which will only be won through struggle. It will be never granted by a government which cares more about ensuring Britain is 'open for business' than looking after the people business exploits for profit.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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