The Salvation Army is calling on England's mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to end rough sleeping.
The charity has written to candidates who are standing for Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens in next week's elections, urging them to ensure the government provides enough long-term funding to help prevent homelessness.
Major Ian Harris, of the Severn and Somerset Division, told Premier it's vital the elected mayors make the issue a priority: “The mayoral candidates, the mayor's themselves, have huge responsibilities for their areas, including housing. So we wanted to really encourage them to get involved and understand what the issues are locally, and how they can best work with others like ourselves to support people who are homeless.”
Major Harris says that there has been a huge increase in people becoming homeless over the last decade, as a result of various issues, including loss of employment, domestic violence, mental health issues and addictions. But over the last year, the problem has got worse: “We calculate 55 per cent of people are new to the streets. We’re finding that people are experiencing homelessness for the first time, and continuing to experience homelessness, because of a lack of affordable housing, and because of a lack of support for those who do achieve housing.”
The Salvation Army is one of the largest homelessness charities in the UK, providing more than 3,000 places in supported housing across the UK.
Major Harris says affordable housing and support is vital to eradicating homelessness: “This government has pledged to eradicate homelessness in this parliament, and we applaud that. But now we as charities and churches need to work alongside the government to achieve that. Affordable accommodation is just one part of the whole jigsaw. What we need is for people to be supported through their very complex needs, and to receive support so they can sustain that accommodation. And that opens up their whole future, that opens up employment, it opens up possibilities for them personally.”