As published in the Sheffield Star on 17/12/18
By Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region.
For many of us, Christmas is a time when all roads lead home.
We look forward to enjoying the company of those closest to us, and focusing on the things that are important; family, food and fellowship. But Christmas is not only a period of celebration. It is also a time of reflection.
For too many people, this is the hardest time of the year. A decade of austerity has resulted in more homelessness, poverty, debt and financial insecurity than we have seen in a generation.
Here in the Sheffield City Region, the official figures say that around 1,200 people are homeless and approximately 100 people are sleeping rough. But these figures do not tell the full story. We know that there are many more. The charity Crisis reports that there are 131,000 children in this country without their own home. They are part of the hidden homeless living on the goodwill of friends and family.
This rise in homelessness is not inevitable – it is the result of national policies and a government that has the wrong priorities. The UK is a relatively wealthy country. There is no excuse for thousands of people to be left without a secure, stable home.
We, as a society, are indebted to the good work of organisations such as the Cathedral Archer Project, Roundabout, Centrepoint, and many more, who are here to pick people up and provide the help they need to help themselves.
This support isn’t just about putting a roof over people’s heads. It’s about providing medical care, enabling access to hot food and showers, and improving homeless people’s life chances, helping them grow in confidence and increase their chances of finding work.
While these charities do extraordinary work, they’re often left reacting to crises. Instead we need to come up with long-term solutions.
That’s why I’m determined to do all I can, together with those organisations with the right experience and knowledge, to tackle homelessness head-on.
Last month, I held the Sheffield City Region’s first Homelessness Summit. The event brought together councils, MPs, leading organisations and, most importantly, people who have first-hand experience of homelessness.
I’ll also be establishing a Sheffield City Region Homelessness Network to develop a more co-ordinated response to addressing homelessness. I will be speaking to local authorities and other organisations to make this a reality, as well as campaigning for more resources and better structural support for homeless people.
By working together, we can take steps towards putting a stable, secure roof over everyone’s head. This is the case all year round; not just at Christmas.