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Housing

Councils back The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign

Local authorities in Wakefield and Brent are leading the way in demanding action to Stop Mass Homelessness this winter.

Local authorities in Wakefield and Brent have answered The Big Issue’s call to Stop Mass Homelessness by passing a council motion vowing to prevent the growing crisis.

The Big Issue launched the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign in the summer warning the rising cost of living and waning Covid-19 support as well as debts built up during the pandemic could lead to thousands of people facing homelessness in the months ahead.

As part of the campaign, The Big Issue asked supporters to contact their local councillors urging them to raise a council motion to back the campaign in their area as well as writing to government ministers to raise the issue. 

Councillor Michelle Collins, who represents the South Elmsall and South Kirkby ward in Wakefield, led the charge at the local council’s full meeting on October 27.

The Labour councillor proposed that the government should commit to a series of measures to support people in their homes at the meeting, including suspending no-fault evictions, improving access to discretionary housing payment and unfreezing Local Housing Allowance. The council voted to back the motion.

Cllr Collins told The Big Issue she decided to act after seeing the numbers of people facing homelessness. The Big Issue revealed that one household was made homeless every three and a half hours at the start of 2021.

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“The figures are stark,” said Cllr Collins. “People living in our area who were just getting by are now really struggling to keep their heads above water.

“The government cannot continue to ignore this homelessness crisis. We need action now to help prevent thousands of people hit by the Covid pandemic from falling into homelessness in the months ahead on a scale never seen before.

“I’m angry that homelessness is a choice that politicians are making. It’s just terrible for individuals and makes no sense in terms of society or the economy. In local government we can fix it but after cut after cut we are struggling.”

This week councillors in Brent, north-west London, also gave The Big Issue’s campaign their backing.

Labour councillor Robert Johnson raised the motion at the local authority’s full council meeting on November 22 and sparked heated debate between councillors over the issue.

Johnson told councillors that thousands of families who racked up rent arrears during Covid are facing evictions and repossessions this winter, following rising energy prices and the end of Covid support schemes like the £20 universal credit increase and the furlough scheme.

In response, the council warned that “now is not the time to unravel the interventions that the government has introduced to protect people during this unprecedented period” and that “demand outstrips supply” with nearly 6,000 residents asking the council for support in the last year.

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But the issue proved controversial during the meeting.

Conservative councillor Suresh Kansagra said he broadly backed the motion but objected to the use of the word “mass”. “It’s a word that scares people,” he said. “It’s creating a problem that does not exist and will not exist – the government will deal with it.”

The stance incited anger from Labour councillor Fleur Donnelly-Jackson. 

“I would just like to say as somebody who experienced homelessness several times as a child that actually one family that is homeless is too many so I’m really quite disturbed by the lack of empathy from the opposition there,” she said. “It’s so important that families and children actually have safe homes to grow up in.

She added: “I’m so supportive of this motion and so upset by what the opposition have just said.”

The Labour-run council backed the motion minutes later and will now write to the cabinet ministers in Westminster asking them to keep people in their homes and in sustainable jobs.

Want to help us Stop Mass Homelessnesss? Contact your local councillor and ask them to back our motion. Head here to find out how.

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Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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