I want to begin today by thanking Jas Dehar, Rev David Wright, Lifespring Church, All Nations Church, Punjabi Fellowship Church, St Peter’s Church and all who have made this event possible.
A year ago, a homeless woman was found dead in a doorway in Queen St, Wolverhampton.
A life cut short, dying alone in the most desperate circumstances.
No one’s life should end in that way.
Our city has a problem and our country has a problem with homelessness. There were 376 applications for housing from people accepted as homeless in Wolverhampton last year – a 13% rise over the previous year.
Too many people without a bed for the night, without security, without a place to rest. At its most obvious, rough sleeping on the streets. But there are many other hidden homeless, sofa surfing or moving from place to place a few nights at a time but still without a secure place they can call home.
In the 21st century in a country like the United Kingdom, we ought to be able to house our own people.
This is not an easy issue, because sometimes tragic individual circumstances are involved as well things like housing policy. But difficulty is not an excuse for resignation.
I want to thank everyone in the city who helps, from the Good Shepherd Ministry to all the places of welcome like Excel Church or the Ahmadiyya Mosque in my constituency.
We all know we need more housing and I welcome the moves to build more housing in the Bilston Urban Village and many other places in the city.
Canada, a country with half our population, builds twice as many houses in a year as we do. It’s a long term problem and we have to change course.
As well as building houses we have to manage what we have better – making sure we don’t have too many empty homes and ensuring decent quality in the private rented sector.
And sometimes, it’s just being smart about what we do. I recently visited the YMCA in the city and heard about a programme called Open Door – a sort of foster programme for young adults.
Open door asks host families to take a young person and given them a home as part of the family. It might be a short time, maybe longer. The hosts get paid a small amount and it’s a far cheaper way to provide a home than many other more costly alternatives.
I talked to one woman who had taken in a teenage girl and helped turn her life around. That young woman is now at university. Open Door is a great idea and we need more like it.
Homelessness is a scar on our society and we must come together to do more about it.
I want everyone to have the security of a bed, a home, somewhere they can call their own. I am glad to support today’s event with my fellow MPs and to commend all of you for what you are doing today.