ELECTION 2017 KEY ISSUE: What action has Richard taken on Homelessness?
Over the last year alone I have focused on the following five areas of work on the Homeless:
1. Homelessness Reduction Bill: This is a Conservative-led Act that will provide more money to local councils to tackle homelessness. I supported this from the beginning and the government later did too; and all the Homeless charities support it too.
2. George Whitfield Centre: this centre is occupied by various local partners working to help the Homeless, including NHS Glos Care Services, Gloucester City Mission, Green Square and the Food Bank. I helped the centre resolve their lease and opened it with all the partners.
Some time earlier I also helped to arrange for continued government funding for a scheme that helps rough sleepers find housing after treatment at the Hospital.
3. Seeing Gloucester’s response first hand: I’ve gone out all night with the police to talk to those on the streets, visited our Supported Housing providers and had discussions with their residents: met with charities and Faith Missions: raised funds for Alabaré, the Housing for Veterans charity, slept in the Cathedral for a night: and been a member of Gloucester Rotary which has raised £20,000 for the Homeless.
4. National Reports on the Select Committee: Through the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I’ve looked into issues around homelessness: and Co-Chaired a Joint Select Committee report on Supported Housing.
5. Hosted round table to discuss local issues with experts: I organised and chaired a round table session of around 20 organisations to discuss whether we need a new charity to direct generosity to the Homeless, but avoid giving cash to those begging which is often spent on addictions. I should be clear that those begging are not always homeless, as I have been told by those on the street themselves, and by charities and the police who help the people on our streets every day. This is an extremely delicate issue but I am working on this with the feedback of Gloucester’s experts.
So if re-elected as your MP I will continue to show leadership locally and, if involved with the same Select Committee again, nationally as well.
Meanwhile the government is already committed to contributing more to tackling the Homeless issue, and part of that is through building much more new housing.
In 2015 I helped to secure the £50 million Gloucester housing debt write off that enabled GCH to become an independent company and then win a £1.25m new contract for Estate Regeneration in Matson and Podsmead. We have already built more social housing and there is much more to come. That should all help, directly or indirectly.