Cllr Douglas McCall and Cllr Derek Eastman, when mayor, on a visit to the Winter Night Shelter last year.
Homelessness is on the increase in Milton Keynes and across the UK. In Milton Keynes there are currently (as at 10th October) 534 households, not individuals, who are homeless in Milton Keynes. That is roughly double the figure from just a year ago. These are in various types of temporary accommodation. Then on top of that is the increasing number of street homeless.
The main problem is quite simply a shortage of affordable and social housing for rent, which is not surprising as Council houses have been sold off for over three decades. There is a concern that the government’s plans to also force Housing Associations to sell their houses off too will just increase homelessness. Where exactly does the government expect people on low incomes to live – other than on the streets of course?
Most people don’t realise that councils only have a duty to help house ‘vulnerable’ people with a local connection, which is basically people with children or the disabled. So, single people and childless couples are ‘non-statutory’ homeless and find themselves literally on the streets.
The Liberal Democrats have made tackling homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing one of its top priorities, and those priorities are now part of the Council Plan. We are pleased that Milton Keynes Council is leading the way and has agreed it has a moral duty, even if not a legal one, to do what it can to help the so called non-statutory homeless.
We are very lucky in Milton Keynes to have many charities that help the homeless, such as the YMCA, Open Door, the Winter Night Shelter, Orbit, and others. You may have read in the press that the Winter Night Shelter will be operating their Reception Centre from the Buzzy this coming winter. The Council has set up a Homelessness partnership with all the charities in the sector to try and leverage more help.