Rough sleeper’s death highlights the horrors of homelessness

David Mackintosh has urged society to do ‘all it can’ to prevent people from becoming homeless and to address the complex causes and challenges that lead to people becoming homeless in the first place.

DM in Parliament

Speaking during a debate on homelessness in the House of Commons, the Conservative MP for Northampton South revealed he had come across a man who had died while sleeping rough ‘in the shadow of Westminster’ on the same night that he himself had taken part in a sponsored sleep-out to raise awareness of the problem.

He said: “I have always said that one person who is homeless is one too many, so every opportunity we have to highlight this problem of modern society is helpful.

 “As we approach Christmas, I know that all those taking part in this debate will be particularly mindful of the human stories behind the statistics. On 31 October, I took part in a sleep-out organised by the charity Depaul at Lord’s cricket ground. I left here after the late night Monday votes and slept rough for the night. It gives us some insight into the horrible realities, but I knew that it was for only one night and that I would be back in a warm bed the next night.

“After sleeping rough, I was a little tired and jaded, but I was back here the following day, and my first job was to speak at a conference on homelessness at a hotel just over Westminster bridge. As I walked over with my assistant, we both saw that a homeless person was on the street, but it was clear to us that they had sadly passed away.

“I do not know the name of that person, who they were or where they came from, but I know that while I was sleeping rough just a few miles away, this homeless person had been out in the cold and the wet, and died in the sight of Parliament and in earshot of Big Ben. My assistant and I were horrified to witness that visible example of the plight of homeless people on our streets, and in recent weeks, I have read about other cases in other cities.

“I do not profess to have all the answers to solve this social problem, but I do know that we should not let these people die in vain. For their memory’s sake, we should continue to do all we can to prevent people from becoming homeless and to address the many complex causes and challenges that lead to people becoming homeless in the first place.”

The Department for Work and Pensions temporary accommodation management fee is being replaced with a new Department for Communities and Local Government grant. That means that current levels of funding will be protected, but that an additional £10 million of funding will be introduced for areas with the highest pressures. The new grant will give local authorities more flexibility in managing homelessness pressures.

Central Government funding of £149 million will target prevention and reduction programmes in different ways. The £20 million trailblazer programme, for example, will enable councils to work together with other agencies to prevent homelessness in their area, while the £20 million rough sleeping fund will help those at imminent risk of homelessness or those new to the streets, and the £10 million social impact bond will help rough sleepers with complex needs.

In addition, a total of £100 million will help provide 2,000 places in low-cost rented accommodation to help people move on from hostels and domestic abuse refuges towards independent living. 

David added: “I am pleased that the Homelessness Reduction Bill will give local authorities new responsibility and new funding, but despite the challenges, I am pleased that local authorities have helped to prevent more than 1 million people from becoming homeless since 2010.”