People become homeless for all sorts of reasons. Different types of crisis such as domestic violence, mental illness, or debt can suddenly place a person in need of shelter. Local councils have always been in the front line of providing the necessary safety net. The last Labour Administration was so effective at helping people who found themselves homeless that our Conservative neighbours at Kensington and Chelsea Council joined in with many our schemes.
H&F Conservatives have taken a very different view during the last three years. The first indications of a less than compassionate approach occurred in 2007 when they described the homeless as a “law and order issue” and banned the BBC and Crisis from running a Christmas shelter. They cut funding to local homeless charities, such as Broadway (as you can read here on page 18), and actually sold off twelve homeless hostels raising millions of pounds in revenue for the Council while explaining that they didn’t need the shelters any more. They then also began to sell off many empty Council homes instead of re-letting them to people on the waiting list and did all of this while tightening the homeless acceptance criteria.
The latest figures show that H&F Council now only agrees to provide shelter for around half the numbers of homeless people it had accepted under Labour back in 2006. Some local backbench Tories are bizarrely trying to promote the notion this is an indication of their efficient approach to solving homelessness in the borough. I am not sure if this premise is a result of a failure to understand what their frontbench colleagues are up to; disingenuous propaganda; or it’s just that particular type of heartless ignorance but, as the attached photo above demonstrates, homelessness is still a plight for many of our fellow residents - even if H&F Conservatives are no longer prepared to put a roof over their heads.
The above picture was kindly sent to me by local resident Jane Bain. She took the photo early yesterday morning. It shows a homeless gentleman sleeping on a fly-tipped mattress next to Hammersmith Bridge.