The Yorkshire Party has called for 23,000 houses to be built in the county each year – almost doubling the present number – as part of its policy to tackle homelessness. At least 8,000 homes should be available at social rents, it says.
And it wants rough sleeping to be handled as a social and health issue, not a criminal one.
Its Nobody Left Out policy says: “Everyone has a right to a home. A stable place of safety and security is the basis upon which people can improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
“A Yorkshire Assembly should strive to enable individuals to gain independence and develop a sense of identity, value and purpose within a wider community.
“Ending homelessness in Yorkshire is an imperative step to create a future founded on fairness and opportunity.
“It is abhorrent that in a developed country in the 21st century, homelessness is rising.
“Mental health issues or addiction should not be a barrier to housing.”
Homelessness charity Shelter recently estimated that Yorkshire had 5,664 homeless people, of whom 207 were sleeping rough – a 12% rise since last year.
The policy champions a preventative and Housing First approach to ensure that if people do become homeless it is “brief and non-recurring”.
It calls for the integration of employment and housing services, to ensure people are not made homeless as a result of the welfare system.
The policy urges the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824, criminalising rough sleeping and begging, under which 2,365 people were prosecuted nationally in 2015/16. The Party says homelessness should not be a police matter.
However, local authorities should be equipped with additional powers to take a zero tolerance to anti-social behaviour.
Mick Bower, the Yorkshire Party candidate in the Sheffield City Mayoral election in the Spring, made homelessness a key issue of his campaign. He said: “Anyone who spends time in our town and city centres can see homelessness has reached crisis level. Leaving it to charities, blaming other factors and generally looking the other way are no longer options.
“Ending rough sleeping will improve our urban environment, for businesses and individuals, and it will literally save lives. We have the resources to do this now.”
Earlier this month, the National Housing Federation was reported as saying 12,600 homes were built last year in Yorkshire and Humber.
Last week, a Yorkshire Party study showed council cuts to youth services were linked to the rise in the number of homeless youngsters on Yorkshire’s streets.
Party Deputy Leader Chris Whitwood was interviewed about the study on Bradford-based radio station Pulse FM. The report is available at https://www.pulse1.co.uk/news/local/pro-devolution-yorkshire-party-to-announce-policy-on-homelessness/
In a very personal column on homelessness in The Yorkshire Post, Jayne Dowle wrote: “The problem still is not so much that there isn’t enough help available, but that too many people think that homelessness is someone else’s problem.”