Ending rough sleeping in Reading

by merioconnell on 12 May, 2017

 

On my way to join the Reading Lib Dem team last week for a spot of campaigning in the town centre, I walked from The Broad St Mall to the Forbury Gardens holding my youngest daughter’s hand. She had been to a friend’s birthday party and was bouncing along chatting to me, full of stories and no small amount of sugar!

By the time we had gotten to Broad Street we had passed 4 separate rough sleepers and her bounce had been replaced with a thoughtful crease in her brow. As we passed a fifth man with a hand written sign asking for money, she burst into tears. His sign had said that it was his birthday and this broke my 7 year olds heart. She couldn’t bear the thought of someone having to beg on their birthday.

The numbers of rough sleepers on Reading’s streets has increased visibly in just a few years. I know I am not the first parent to have to try and find some way of explaining that there are simply not enough homes and that some of the people sleeping rough need help and support that just isn’t there.

What I was able to tell her was that the Liberal Democrats have become the first major party to commit to ending the national scandal of rough sleeping across Britain. That we care and if we are given the chance, we will change things for the better!

The Liberal Democrats have set out a series of measures to end rough sleeping, including introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority that would put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.

We announced this just as a coalition of homelessness charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.

The evidence suggests that supporting people and giving them long-term, stable places to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them to different temporary accommodation.

Under this government, homelessness has soared and young people have been stripped of housing benefit, threatening to make matters even worse. The total annual cost of homelessness to the state is estimated at £1 billion – it makes financial as well as moral sense to end rough sleeping.

My daughter instinctively understood that being forced to beg and live on the streets is wrong, we can’t carry on walking past and turning our heads the other way. I will keep telling her:

‘Have hope, Britain is a wonderful country full of decent people. Our future can be bright.’

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