On the 4th of January, Labour Councillors are planning to ask five simple, and yet, profound questions of Canterbury City Council.
Three questions relate to the frightening rise in homelessness since 2010. This month the city council published a press release congratulating itself that it had provided cold weather shelters for 25 rough sleepers as temperatures reached below freezing. However, they failed to acknowledge that their own figures suggest that the scale of the problem in the district is more than double this.
At the moment, rough sleepers are only offered emergency shelter when it is predicted the temperature will fall below freezing for three successive nights, we are asking what it would cost to make this available every night the “Met Office forecast hits zero or sub-zero temperatures”.
We also want to know what it would take to ensure that the Council provided at least 80% of temporary accommodation for the homeless within the district rather than predominantly outside it, ensuring families are able to stay nearer schools, places of work and support networks when they need them most.
Finally, on understanding that homelessness is a complex issue we will be asking whether “Canterbury City Council will write to Parish Councils within the Canterbury City Council area and ask them to identify suitable sites for building housing for social rent under the Rural Exception Policy?”
On his visit to Catching Lives in December, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister John Healey discussed our parties radical vision for an end to rough sleeping. Labour Councillor Bernadette Fisher, who is working to role out this plan locally, said “at this time of year we are simply seeking to persuade councillors to care for homeless people in a kinder way which would stop them having to sleep rough in cold weather or being separated from their friends and families when in temporary accommodation.”
During December over 12,500 people watched our social media campaign on homelessness in Canterbury staring John Healey, Rosie Duffield and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry. We know that this issue matters to the people of Canterbury. We the Council’s answers with baited breath.