photo Garry Knight (CC)

photo Garry Knight (CC)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Pete McNally, Worcester Socialist Party

Joby Sparrey died on Christmas Day in the doorway of a shop in Malvern, Worcestershire. Brays is a long-established shop with large doorways so he was probably able to stretch out to sleep.

On 31 October 2018 Remigiusz Boczarski was found dead in nearby Malvern Wells. He had been living in a bus shelter.

Both men had been befriended and helped by local people with food and clothing, with one person washing Remigiusz’s clothes for him. Apparently the staff at Brays had known Joby was sleeping in the doorway for some time and tried to assist him.

Homelessness has clearly surged. Not just in Worcestershire, but across Britain. Meanwhile, houses are left empty for months and even years. There were 200,000 unoccupied in 2016, according to government figures!

In Malvern, the council official for housing expressed the usual regrets. The local MP did the same, and pointed to “important advice on the council website.”

Ending homelessness will not be straightforward, but is within our power. First of all, councils must fight for funds to build services around the real needs of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Councils should be able to assist those at risk before it happens, with flexible help available when needed to get those who lose their homes back into accommodation. This also means having the accommodation available: councils must build council homes, seize empty properties, and cap private rents.

In Malvern, local people have said they will volunteer if a shelter for the homeless is found. This shows the instinctive solidarity of ordinary people.

But why should it be left to us? We need a thought-out strategy to end homelessness, including full funding for well-paid and trained staff – and a minimum wage and benefits anyone can live on.

Instead, we have politicians who wring their hands, but will not wring the needed funds from government. Corbyn should hammer the Tories on the housing crisis and homelessness scandal as part of a campaign for a general election – and instruct Labour councils to get moving now by setting no-cuts budgets.