Inside the Council column with Councillor Josh Fenton-Glynn

Homelessness: This area has seen the second highest rise.
Homelessness: This area has seen the second highest rise.

There is nothing more depressing than walking around our streets and seeing the increasing numbers of homeless people huddling together for warmth in shop doorways.

According to Shelter the number of homeless people is now a staggering 320,000 people which is more than the population of Newcastle.

Josh Fenton-Glynn.

Josh Fenton-Glynn.

People may be unaware that Yorkshire and Humber has seen the second highest rise in homelessness which is now a national disgrace.

Massive cuts to council budgets of over 50% since 2010 coupled with the punitive and cruel impact of the disastrous Universal Credit benefits system have fulled this problem.

After nearly a decade in power the Tories and our MP can no longer pretend it is not their problem.

There is also hidden homelessness as it is not just people living on the streets, but families sleeping on sofas and crashing with friends with no permanent place to stay, and little hope of ever getting their own home.

In last year’s council budget we committed an extra £100,000 to tackle homelessness.

Your Labour council is working with local provider Horton Homes to try and make sure no one spends a second night shivering on the streets.

One recent Sunday evening I took a call from a constituent telling me that someone was rough sleeping in Hebden Bridge in temperatures below zero.

Our council has a policy that no one should be left on the pavement when the temperature is below zero so I alerted our community wardens to look out for him to make sure he had somewhere to sleep.

I have also seen how our community has rallied round to help. Elland Round Table have collected warm clothing in partnership with Focus 4 Hope, who are a homelessness project working in the lower valley.

Many people showed their support during the sleep out for Calderdale Smartmove in November.

There is no doubt that the brilliant work these groups do is much needed.

But the fact this that this work is being done by charities and not funded by government is just plain wrong, when the fundamental job of Government should be to look after our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

It is shameful over the last decade that in the sixth richest country on the planet it feels like it is now a fact of life that homelessness will continue to rise.

That’s why I’m inspired by a future Labour’s Government commitment to invest £100 million in year to help those sleeping rough in cold weather.

Unlike this rudderless Government we are also committed to building new homes so the hidden sofa surfers can finally get a place they can call their own.

In the meantime if you see someone sleeping rough please encourage them to call the council on 01422 392460 – or 01422 288000 out of hours – so we can get them the support they need.