Sir Ian McKellen has joined UK homelessness charities in calling on supporters to “badger” their MPs to show up and back the Homelessness Reduction Bill on its second reading in the Commons tomorrow.
The bill – widely regarded as one of the most important developments around the issue in the past 40 years – would impose a statutory duty on councils in England to help people who are in danger of becoming homeless, regardless of whether they are considered to be in “priority need” under existing laws.
Currently, single people without children are not usually considered to be in priority need and may therefore be left without support.
Brought forward by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, the private member’s bill has this week received support from the government.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “No one should have to sleep rough on the streets. We want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That’s why we are determined to do all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.”
— Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) October 24, 2016
But Crisis Chief Executive Jon Sparkes warned that the bill could still easily be blocked or talked out, unless at least 100 MPs are in attendance on the day. He said it was important for UK citizens to “badger” their MPs into passing the bill.
“There remains a real risk that unless MPs offer their support at the bill’s second reading on Friday, this historic opportunity could easily be lost,” he said.
“For 40 years we’ve had a system that fails too many homeless people and turns them away at their time of need. The Homelessness Reduction Bill could help put an end to that injustice once and for all. It is a major opportunity to improve the rights of people currently shut out of the system, whist continuing to protect families with children.”
London based homelessness charity St Mungo’s, which provides a bed and support to more than 2,500 homeless people every night of the year, has also launched an online campaign to back the bill.
Their statement reads: “Too many people are dying on our streets and too many are living with damaging long term consequences of not having a roof over their head and the support they desperately need.
“It is absolutely essential that as many MPs as possible turn up and vote for the Homelessness Reduction Bill if it is to stand a chance of being made into law.”
Following research by Department of Communities and Local Government, it is estimated there are 400,000 “hidden homeless” people, living in hostels, squatting, sofa surfing and other unsecure accommodation in England alone.
— St Mungo’s (@StMungos) October 26, 2016
The St Mungo’s campaign comes hot on the heels of their report Nowhere Safe to Stay, which highlights how people who turn to councils for help are often being sent away without support or even instructed to sleep rough in order to access services. The report can be read in full here.
Update: The Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its second reading without a vote, as no MPs indicated that they would vote against it. Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, welcomed the news. Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, said: “This is a landmark moment, and we’d like to thank the 100+ MPs from across the political spectrum who came together to back this unique bill, as well as Government ministers for offering their support at such a critical time.”
He added: “We have the momentum and we have the cross party consensus, and today’s success shows what can be done when people come together to tackle homelessness. Yet this is no time for complacency. We must continue to build on what we’ve achieved today, both to get the bill through parliament and to make it work for homeless people if and when it finally becomes law.”