MP Adam Holloway was unveiled as politician at the centre of the Government’s plans to end rough sleeping “once for all” last week – and he has a long history of engaging with the issue.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an extra £236 million last week to help the Government meet their target of ending rough sleeping by 2024. That was one of several measures that were unveiled in the hours before new statistics for England revealed that snapshot counts had found a nine per cent fall in rough sleepers in autumn 2019.
Another measure was Holloway’s appointment as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in a role created specifically to tackle the rough-sleeping crisis.
The 54-year-old Gravesham MP has a long history with rough sleeping. In 1991, while trying to build a career as television reporter, Holloway slept out in Birmingham for a report for World In Action.
He repeated the trick for ITV’s Tonight programme in 2018, sleeping rough, reporting himself to outreach services and accepting a place in a shelter for a night to get the full experience of life on the streets.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The ex-army officer then brought forward a debate on rough sleeping with MPs in the House of Commons in which he suggested that street homelessness is “a lot more comfortable than going on exercise in the army”.
Holloway also recalled being in a soup kitchen where he “did not hear English being spoken by anyone” and that the number of rough sleepers was due to “very high levels of eastern European immigration”. According to government data from the time, just 22 per cent of rough sleepers across Britain were EU nationals from outside the UK, and three per cent were non-EU nationals.
“It is a no-brainer that years of high immigration and of successive Governments not building enough houses will have a knock-on effect for people at the bottom of society. Of course that will make rents unaffordable,” said Holloway in the debate.
He also argued that nothing would change if we continue to “feel sorry for everybody” instead of focusing on “the people in real need” and clashed with Labour’s former Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith over “pretending to be a homeless mentally ill person” for the TV shows.
Now Holloway is tasked with calling on his experiences to ensure that no one spends a night out sleeping on the streets, like he did, ever again.
For more reaction to last week’s rough sleeping statistics, buy this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now from vendors across the country and The Big Issue Shop.