Tackling homelessness – November column, Stockport Express

Supporting homeless people is very much on people’s minds as winter sets in, and in Stockport I am concerned to see a rise in the numbers of people sleeping rough in the town centre. We are fortunate to have the Wellspring which offers help- with the generous support of local people and businesses – for example through the Rucksack Project which encourages donations of rucksacks and warm winter clothing.

However it is sometimes hard to be successful in getting long term rough sleepers off the streets for a number of reasons.

Preventing homelessness in the first place must be the way forward.

If the Homelessness Reduction Bill which has cross party support becomes law it will place a duty on the local council to prevent homelessness by working with those at risk, through personalised support plans which also state the support that is needed to prevent homelessness. Obviously this will need more cash and the government needs to make sure that is given to local councils .This bill will benefit young single people. At the moment many of them are not deemed to be in priority need under the current homeless legislation and often receive no help. Often they leave home because of family problems and end up ‘staying with friends ‘in unsafe situations. Some sadly end up living on the streets. That is why it is important to prevent homelessness in the first place.

Last week I spoke at the national conference of Nightstop in Manchester. This is a charity in which local trained volunteers offer a bed in their spare room, for a short period with the aim of helping the young person into long term accommodation or getting a family problem resolved so they can return home. This is vital support for young or other vulnerable people who might otherwise end up in unsafe situations with ‘friends’, sleeping on the street, facing violence, dropping out of college, losing their job or becoming ill. This is a great community resource and I hope it will take off in Stockport with your help.

However welcome this bill is we also need to build desperately needed homes that people can afford. Otherwise in the future it is inevitable that homelessness will increase.

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