DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
News

David Lammy reveals his father’s struggles with homelessness

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy says his dad's experiences are one of the reasons why he campaigns on issues around homelessness.

David Lammy MP - Big Issue Ambassador

David Lammy MP has joined The Big Issue as a Brand Ambassador. Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

David Lammy MP has revealed that his father “struggled with alcoholism and was homeless for periods of his life”. 

The shadow justice secretary said the challenges his father faced have led him to campaign on issues around homelessness throughout his two decades as the Labour MP for Tottenham.

“Very, very sadly, in Tottenham and here in Haringey, we have got really among the highest homelessness levels in London and homelessness is a growing problem,” he added.

Lammy has previously told The Big Issue about his parent’s break-up and the “grief and loss” he felt as a 12-year-old boy when his father abandoned the family home.

“I felt quite a lot of shame. This was an era when growing up in a single-parent home was unusual and there was a lot of stigma attached to it. And beyond that, I think there was just a grief and loss and confusion and deep insecurities about how we would cope without him,” he said.

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription. 

Lammy also warned of the “inevitability” that homelessness will be the next potential crisis to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the stresses of lockdown and public rhetoric around inequality “drives people out of their family homes and onto the streets”.

He added: “If you haven’t got the welfare state working in a way that supports people, it exacerbates that problem.”

Lammy made the comments on becoming an ambassador for The Big Issue, raising awareness about the causes and risks of homelessness around the UK.

Lord John Bird, Founder of The Big Issue, said: “I welcome David’s openness on this issue. It’s a privilege to have him onboard as an official Big Issue Ambassador, using his platform to support our vendors and to keep homelessness and poverty front of mind, not hidden in the shadows.”

There were 3,307 people sleeping rough in London, according to the latest official figures, 1,600 of whom were homeless for the first time. 

“A lot of the issues could be cracked with the right will and the right attitude from government,” Lammy said.

“The important thing is really to use the power of the state to throw a net around people so they don’t sink. And a home, and employment is absolutely key to that. So this is not the time to penny pinch.”

He said he was proud to join a list that already includes actors Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Mays and Sophie Winkleman, top firefighter Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and TV presenter and architect George Clarke, and to support Big Issue vendors as they continue to struggle through the third national lockdown.  

“In good times, our high streets are busy,” he said. “We see vendors and we buy a magazine [that is] committed to ensuring that people who are less well off than us have that lifeline. We’ve got to be there in tougher times as well. 

“Our high streets aren’t busy, but The Big Issue is still there. And you can make a huge difference at this time of recession to so many people who need a home and who need that lifeline. Support The Big Issue.

As a Big Issue ambassador, David Lammy has pledged to campaign against evictions and in favour of a re-skilling programme to help avoid the Covid crisis being followed by a new homelessness crisis.

“It’s an opportunity to build back better,” he added. “There are opportunities here to address some long standing issues in our economy – the structure of our economy; the north south divide; the way that black, Asian and minority ethnic people have been at the brunt of inequality in this country. 

“There are many, many ways in which you can build that better if you’re using the power of the state to support people.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Labour's plan for the climate and nature: The good, the bad and the glaringly absent
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner announce new grey belt Labour housebuilding plan
General election 2024

Labour's plan for the climate and nature: The good, the bad and the glaringly absent

Council charges Grenfell residents cleaning fee for memorial to victims: 'Who would think this was fair?'
Grenfell memorial
Grenfell

Council charges Grenfell residents cleaning fee for memorial to victims: 'Who would think this was fair?'

Labour manifesto's 'vague' plans on homelessness unpicked: 'Next to nothing for those on the margins'
Labour leader Keir Starmer
General election 2024

Labour manifesto's 'vague' plans on homelessness unpicked: 'Next to nothing for those on the margins'

Free bus travel could lift young people out of poverty and unpick cost of living crisis. Here's how
A bus on Manchester’s new Bee Network
General election 2024

Free bus travel could lift young people out of poverty and unpick cost of living crisis. Here's how

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know