Slamming the government for complacency over homelessness, Labour’s Liam Byrne listed the rough sleepers who have died over the past 15 months to the Commons – urging members to “hear, know and remember” each of them.
“Paul Williams, Laura Cairns, Steve, Daniel Hutton, Alain Simmonds, Daniel Clements, Terry Taylor, Jayne Simpson, Michael Hill, Peter Mbugua, Simon Holmes, Linda Grimes, Remigiusz Boczarski, Peter Corker, Joby Sparrey, Julie, Thomas Pulham, Kane Walker and two men whose names are known only to God,” said Byrne.
Earlier, during a debate on housing, Kit Malthouse had listed government initiatives to tackle rough sleeping, saying stats showed the first fall in eight years.
Byrne said such apparent complacency about homelessness was “wholly misplaced” when, in his West Midlands region under a Tory Mayor, homelessness or rough sleeping was up 333%.
“The homeless people I see on the streets of Birmingham often live in medieval conditions,” he said.
“I have met people in subways in their hospital gowns and people with rat bites fighting and fearing sepsis.
“And yet the homeless people in Britain’s second city, in the sixth richest economy on earth, face a health system that is rated inadequate and a mental health service in which the caseload is rising four times faster than funding – and where only 1% of the money promised to the West Midlands combined authority for housing has actually been paid over to build new homes,” he said.
Reading his ‘roll call of shame’, Byrne made a case for a permanent memorial in Birmingham – if not other cities – to confront society with the collective failure that allowed deaths of homeless on the streets.
“The best memorial of all, however, would be to end this scandal for good and to sweep the disgrace of homelessness into the history books once more,” he said.