Jeremy Corbyn speaks out against 'social cleansing' as he backs the Homeless Helpline

The Labour leader said he was seeing ‘a de-housing of those in social need in central London’

Adam Lusher
Thursday 15 December 2016 22:34
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Jeremy Corbyn attends homeless appeal event

Jeremy Corbyn has backed the Young and Homeless Helpline, while claiming the “social cleansing” of London was adding to the pressures on young people struggling to find somewhere to live.

Delivering his outspoken comments while visiting a hostel run by the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, the Labour leader said young people in the capital were among those hardest hit by what he described as the “de-housing of those in social need”.

Condemning a growing shortage of affordable housing, Mr Corbyn told The Independent: “In London there is always a competition between expensive commercial development and the need for the provision of good quality social housing, [but] it seems to me more imbalanced than ever now.

“We are seeing, therefore, a de-housing of those in social need in central London. We are seeing social cleansing of central London, because our local authorities are not equipped with the funds and powers to deal with the housing needs of their communities.”

Such pressure, he said, was one of the reasons why the Young and Homeless Helpline, being campaigned for by Centrepoint and The Independent, was so needed.

The helpline will assist many of the 150,000 16 to 25-year-olds seeking help with homelessness in the UK every year, and seek to address a situation where, Centrepoint estimates, up to one in three young people are turned away unaided by English councils.

The Government has previously stated that it has invested £500million to tackle homelessness and that homelessness among 16 to 24-year-olds has fallen by 17 per cent since 2010.

But Mr Corbyn’s backing of the Young and Homeless Helpline came two days after the Labour party unveiled a plan to eradicate street sleeping, pledging to ensure that 4,000 additional housing association homes were earmarked for rough sleepers.

Mr Corbyn said his experiences of trying to help “desperate” young homeless people in his Islington North constituency had also convinced him of the need for what will be the first nationwide helpline offering advice to young people facing homelessness.

“I absolutely back the homeless helpline campaign,” he said. “As a London MP I do get young people turning up at the constituency office in this situation. Sometimes they are totally desperate. They don’t know who to turn to or where to go. This phoneline will be very, very useful, a very good idea.”

Urging as many Independent readers as possible to donate to the homeless helpline appeal, he added: “Of course, it is about proper [Government] funding, but it is also about everybody saying: ‘Let’s not pass by on the other side.”

Describing how he also met and tried to counsel the young people he saw sleeping rough on the streets of his constituency, Mr Corbyn said he feared young lives were being blighted and a wealth of young talent was being lost to the nation.

“How many potentially brilliant engineers of tomorrow are sleeping on the streets?” He asked. “How many doctors? How many nurses?

“It’s not just a shame – it’s a crying waste of talent.”

Corbyn with volunteer workers bagging up products donated by beauty companies to be given as Christmas presents for Centrepoint residents

He added: “If young people are homeless, they are getting into bad health, with no education: you are losing them.”

Saying this should no longer be happening, he said: “We are one of the richest countries in the world. We have the resources to do so many things.”

Earlier Mr Corbyn, a vegetarian since the age of 20, had helped a group of current and former Centrepoint residents cook chickpea burgers during one of the charity’s healthy living classes.

Displaying conspicuous enthusiasm for cooking the vegetarian food, Mr Corbyn suggested adding more salt to the burger mix and cayenne pepper, which, he said, “would be nice because it’s not so strong”.

When handed a knife to chop sweet potatoes, however, the Labour leader warned the attendant throng of photographers: “I don’t want to be accused of using an offensive weapon.”

The session ended with Mr Corbyn inviting some of the Centrepoint residents to visit him in Parliament in the new year.

Mr Corbyn praised how the charity, which achieves positive outcomes with 90 per cent of the young people it helps, taught life skills that will help ex-residents stay out of homelessness. He said it was also vital that helpline could stay operational long after its planned February launch.

Mr Corbyn said: “Those taking on the running of the helpline are taking on a massive responsibility. They will be dealing with sometimes very desperate young people. They have got to see it through.”

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