MP hopes homelessness bill will make ‘huge difference’ in tackling a growing problem

Tom Brake believes a bill passed in parliament today will help reduce the number of homeless people across London.

The Carshalton and Wallington MP said he supported the bill, which will allow councils to tackle homelessness by getting involved at an earlier stage.

The bill comes after the release of a report by the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee in August which concluded homelessness was undoubtedly increasing across the UK.

Mr Brake said: “The housing issue and homelessness are real problems.”

The bill changes the definition of homelessness, to include those threatened with homelessness up to 56 days before actually becoming so.

The MP said this will eliminate the ‘stupidity’ of the current arrangement, under which councils cannot help people faced with eviction until just 28 days before.

The new arrangement will allow them to secure a viable alternative earlier, with the help of their local authority.

“It could make a huge difference in terms of homelessness in London,” Mr Brake said, also stating that housing issues were prominent in his constituency.

The bill places emphasis on the duty of housing authorities to provide access to free advice services on preventing and relieving homelessness, as well as on the rights of homeless people.

Sian Berry, London Assembly Green Party member, said: “The bill could improve the lives of Londoners but only with proper funding that is safeguarded from council cuts.

“Rough sleeping doubled under the last Mayor and I know Lambeth and Croydon were hit particularly hard by sharp rises in numbers of people without a safe roof over their heads.

“Providing more housing at genuinely affordable rents in London would offer substantial help to people worried about losing their home because they can no longer pay soaring rents.”

Crisis chief executive, Jon Sparkes called the passage of the bill a landmark moment and that the current system has failed too many homeless people.

“Time and again we hear from people who were turned away from help when they needed it most, despite the fact they had nowhere left to go,” he said.

He said today’s news shows what can be done when people come together to tackle homelessness.

According to the Commons report, there are approximately 940 rough sleepers in London, constituting 26% of England’s total figure.

It urged the government to recognise that 18–21 year olds are at significant risk of homelessness and said it should monitor local authority housing departments to ensure they adhere to a statutory code of guidance, ensuring necessary help is available to the homeless.

Picture courtesy of Maureen Barlin, with thanks.

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