Grant Shapps has always professed a profound personal attachment to the cause of homelessness and rough sleeping:
“When a family is made homeless or someone has no choice but to spend a night sleeping on the street, they become some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am shocked and saddened when I see people bedding down for the night on our nation’s streets, or hear of a family spending another night in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. Tackling homelessness and rough sleeping is what first got me into politics.”
Whether he’s sincere or not, it’s evident from today’s figures that he’s failing the cause he entered politics for. Rough sleeping is rising rapidly as a result of his housing policies.
Overall in England, the number of rough sleepers is up a fifth on the same time last year – rising in eight out of nine English regions.
In the East Midlands it increased 55% on last year, in the North West there was a 49% increase and in the South East 39%.
Percentage increase in rough sleeping between autumn 2010 and autumn 2011:
His defence has been that he has changed the way rough sleeping is counted and so the figures are inflated. Maybe, but that’s no defence to why the numbers are rising, however they’re counted. He’ll do well to find any reputable housing charity or body to say that they aren’t.
In economically dire times, with increasing unemployment, reduced benefits and less support for vulnerable people, you might say that this is inevitable. It’s a fair point.
However, at the risk of praising one of Labour’s main opponents in a different part of the country, I point you to these figures on homelessness:
“Less [sic] people in Scotland are being made homeless according to official statistics published today.
There was a 20 per cent decrease in both homelessness applications and assessments, comparing April and September 2011 with the same period one year ago. Falls were recorded in 28 out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.”