Last week the Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our campaigners and clients. Manjur, our Policy and Research volunteer reflects on the mass lobby of MPs which clients attended in the run up to the second reading, and how their stories inspire change.
The Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons last week. The Bill is a unique opportunity to change the law and help prevent homelessness. Under current laws, people are not getting the help that they need to keep them off the streets, so St Mungo’s is supporting the Bill along with Crisis, the homelessness charity, and thousands of our campaigners.
Before the second reading, we worked with our clients to persuade their MPs to support the Bill. As a volunteer with the policy, campaigns and research team at St Mungo’s, I ran a workshop about the Bill for clients at one of our hostels. They were keen to support the Bill, and agreed to join us for a trip to the House of Commons with our friends from Crisis for a mass lobby of MPs.
A significant Bill for people sleeping rough
As I walked to the lobby with two of our clients, one of them told me about his experiences of becoming homeless. This made me think how significant the Bill would be to people sleeping rough.
Both clients talked about the dismissive attitude of councils when they asked for support, which in the end left them on the streets. Councils are not required to do much for people who don’t fit into the ‘priority need’ category and both clients were a testament to that needing to be changed.
Our recent report ‘Nowhere safe to stay – the dangers of sleeping rough’ found that some homeless people had slept rough the night after asking their council for help. Alarmingly, one of our clients said that his council offered no support or advice, but would ‘write to him’ when they could, even though he is homeless. The council forgot about him, until St Mungo’s picked him up. His driving force in attending the mass lobby was to ensure that his experience with the council doesn’t continue for others.
Unfortunately our clients’ local MP was in Brussels and was not able to meet. I told our clients this and although they were quite disheartened, they were enthusiastic about getting involved in other ways at the event.
Moving stories of perserverance
We attended an informative briefing and tweeted the clients’ MP asking them to attend the second reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which was due to take place on the 28 October. At the end of the mass lobby, we had a bit of fun taking pictures of our clients in front of Parliament and the Big Ben to draw more attention to the Homelessness Reduction Bill, leading to me getting my knees muddy in order to get the perfect picture.
Talking with people who have slept rough and had terrible experiences on the streets, with services and councils was a moving experience. Their perseverance to use their experiences to shed light and make a change was equally inspiring.
One of the clients said: “The council didn’t give me any information when I became homeless. They just said “ sorry, we can’t help”. I ended up sleeping rough for a year and a half. If this legislation had been in place, I would have had some hope that I could have been placed in accommodation more quickly.”
There’s still a long way to go
Last week I was in Parliament for the second reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill. The Bill passed the second reading – which is huge! The enormous efforts of St Mungo’s, Crisis and the many thousands of campaigners who pushed their MPs to support the Bill made the difference. It was also very encouraging to hear so many MPs enthusiastically supporting and committing to the Bill.
While were one step closer to this once in a generation opportunity for change, there is still a long way to go. The Bill is now going through to the committee stage for further scrutiny by MPs. However we need to get the Bill through by the end of the parliamentary session next summer, so it is important we keep the momentum going and keep the pressure on Westminster!
We’d love for you to join us as a campaigner, helping us to end homelessness and rebuild lives. It takes just a minute and you could help to make a big difference.