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We cannot stand by as thousands are left homeless this winter

November 17, 2020 9:48 AM
By Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon
Originally published by Southend Liberal Democrats - Working For You
Now more than ever, we need a compassionate approach to homelessness.

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With coronavirus putting the most vulnerable in our communities at risk, we must ensure no one is left behind. 2020 has seen a sharp rise in rough sleeping. Without a home to stay in, these people are at a higher risk of catching the virus and have no way to self-isolate.

The homelessness crisis is not new, and is not going away once we defeat Covid.

Now more than ever, we need a compassionate approach to homelessness. Rough sleepers urgently need accommodation, health checks and support in the face of the Covid crisis. The homelessness crisis is not new, and is not going away once we defeat this virus. Too many people are forced to live on the streets and too few of our leaders in Government are treating this issue with the urgency it demands.

Even before coronavirus hit the UK, Liberal Democrats have been fighting to scrap the Vagrancy Act - a law that criminalises homelessness. It's a cruel, Dickensian law and has no place in modern Britain. Back in March, I introduced a Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill to Parliament. Put simply, my Bill would put the Vagrancy Act on the ash heap of history, where it belongs. It's Second Reading is scheduled for 12th March 2021, but we need urgent action now to help our most vulnerable. Ministers must ringfence emergency funding for local councils to permanently accommodate rough sleepers. They must also produce a long-term plan to end rough sleeping, including supporting my Bill to scrap the Vagrancy Act.

This is a moral issue; we simply cannot allow people to suffer like this. We must have action now.