Bristol is a compassionate city, and many of you have written to me concerned about the number of people sleeping rough in the city centre.
This is a top priority for Bristol City Council, who have initiated a range of measures aimed at improving the situation, including by: leasing previously-empty council properties to homeless charities (rent-free); working with local churches to provide cold weather shelters in church halls; and attracting government funding for measures to support homeless people to find a permanent place to live. I’m proud to represent a constituency that knows we need to take action to solve our housing and homelessness crisis. But Bristol can’t help all those who need support finding a place to live alone. We need all local authorities in the region to step up and to play their part.
There is a good network of night shelters, free food provision and other support services in the city, provided by a range of charities and organisations. However, this network is under strain and struggling with a growing demand. Part of the reason for this is that many neighbouring Tory-run councils provide little to no provision, meaning that those who need support in those areas are – directly or indirectly – pushed to relocate to places like Bristol.
Yesterday I asked the minister for the newly-named Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government what the government was doing to ensure that areas with lots of support for homeless people are not taking the strain of other local authorities who are less proactive in tackling homelessness.
I was pleased that the government accept the need to work across local authority boundaries. I will take the minister up on her offer of a meeting after the government’s new task force on homelessness and rough sleeping meets at the start of February.
If you see someone who is street homeless, logging the details with Streetlink provides local homelessness organisations with vital information so that they can visit those sleeping rough and let them know about the support that’s available.
Will the Government please commit to reviewing the situation whereby street homeless people are crossing local authority boundaries, going from one where there is little support to others such as Bristol, where there is a great deal?
Heather Wheeler (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
The hon. Lady asks a very interesting question. The taskforce will be looking at cross-county and rural-to-city issues. Perhaps we could meet to discuss this further after our first meeting on 1 February.
You can watch the exchange here: