It’s worrying times for anyone involved in the fight to reduce and eliminate homelessness in the UK. For it seems the new Housing Minister has a history of less than enlightened views on how to tackle rising levels of homelessness.
As a London council chief back in 2004, Kit Malthouse – the new housing minister following May’s frantic reshuffle – supported and operated a zero-tolerance policy, with a mission to drive street homeless people out of well-to-do Westminster.
The zero-tolerance drive included alleged use of hoses, used by street cleaners once rough sleepers had vacated an area, as part of its attempt to clear homeless people from doorways.
We certainly instituted a policy of making life… more uncomfortable
Asked about his role in the policy four years later, by which time he was a deputy mayor under Boris Johnson, he said: “We certainly instituted a policy of making life – it sounds counterintuitive and cruel – more uncomfortable. That is absolutely right.”
Malthouse, now MP for North West Hampshire, described the council’s campaign of “positive and negative incentives” as an attempt to reduce begging in the area and direct more street homeless people towards shelters, hostels and council help.
“One of the issues was that in many ways – it sounds counterintuitive – life was too comfortable on the street,” he said.