Letter: Government reforms should be more accommodating

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The Independent Online
Sir: Government proposals to remove rights to permanent housing for homeless families do not affect just single parents - they hit every homeless family in Britain, including those on council-housing waiting lists. By saying that a family is homeless only when it is living on the streets, Sir George Young has revealed the true purpose of these 'reforms' - to change what homelessness means so that the Government's appalling record on housing disappears like magic.

That record shows that the number of homes available to rent (both public and private) has shrunk by 1.5 million and homelessness has doubled since the Conservatives came to power in 1979.

The thrust of the proposals is that families must be without shelter before they can ask for emergency housing. If accepted, homeless families will be placed in short-term hostels or forced to accept private tenancies of as little as six months. It doesn't matter that one of the fastest-growing causes of homelessness is eviction from the private rented sector. Nor does it matter that private tenants may be harassed, live in the worst conditions without adequate fire precautions or pay high market, poverty trap rents. Is this really what homeless children deserve?

Of course, this accommodation is only temporary, so after about six months or so, families will be back on the streets again so that they can reapply for another stint in temporary shelter.

Watch out, Sir George, it could be a homeless child you step over next time you go to the opera. But then, they are just queue jumpers, aren't they?

Yours sincerely,

SUE ROGERS, Arlington Day Centre; JOHN HALL, Bayswater Hotels Homelessness Project; ALAN RUSSELL, Camden Community Law Centre; RUTH LAWRENCE, Camden Federation of Private Tenants; LISA CHARALAMBOUS, Camden Homelessness Forum; PHIL JUW, Campaign for Bedsit Rights; Fr BARRY CARPENTER, RC Chaplain to the Homeless; HEATHER PETCH, Char - Housing Campaign for Single People; GORDON PARKER, Coram Homeless Children's Project; VICKY FOX, Doorstep; MARTIN WESTGATE, Doughty Street Chambers; HELEN DRAKE, Finsbury Park Homeless Families Project; WILL ROLT, Hammersmith and Fulham Private Tenants Rights Project; MICHEL BURRELL, King's Cross Homelessness Project; MARTIN LEE, Freeth Cartright (solicitors); SHEILA DURSTON, London Homelessness Forum; HEATHER JOHNSON, London Private Tenants Workers Group; STEVE MILLER, Social Action Forum (of Reform, Liberal and Progressive Synagogues); BEN CAIRNS, Shepherds Bush Families Project; GARY HEWITT, Tower Hamlets Homeless Families Campaign

London, WC1

21 January