Keir Starmer has called on the Prime Minister to tackle a looming crisis in rough sleeping this Christmas, warning it is “just the tip of an iceberg” of poverty and destitution across the country this winter.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Starmer urges the Government to work with local councils and mayors to ensure access to Covid-secure winter shelter for rough sleepers.
The Labour leader also warns that Conservative policies had “pushed so many more into hardship” even before the pandemic. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently found destitution increased by 54% between 2017-19, with 2.4 million adults and 500,000 children affected.
The intervention comes ahead of virtual visits by the Labour leader in the West Midlands today (Monday), where he will meet with homelessness projects in Worcester and food poverty campaigners in Birmingham.
Last week, Labour revealed thousands of rough sleepers risk missing out on life saving shelter this winter, as Covid restrictions mean drastic reductions in emergency night shelter accommodation. The party has launched a campaign to ensure everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.
Starmer’s letter warns that, as a result of the Government’s failure, the rough sleeping crisis is now affecting “towns and cities across the country.” Research from Labour has found rural rough sleeping has risen 60% since 2010.
Starmer writes: “Before the Covid crisis, rough sleeping was a shameful sign of Government failure. We went into this pandemic with twice as many people sleeping rough than in 2010, affecting towns and cities across the country.
“Thousands of rough sleepers risk missing out on life-saving shelter this winter unless the Government supports councils and charities to provide Covid-secure shelter.”
He adds: “Rough sleeping is a crisis which you pledged to end for good. But it is just the tip of an iceberg – the sharp end of a broken housing system and a society with gaping holes in its safety net. Many more people, many of them families with children, will experience homelessness, poverty and destitution this winter.”