Braverman’s tent seizing is outrageous - Alex Cole-Hamilton
The second was with my best friend after cycling through France and Spain the summer between school and university. We’d got off the boat at Plymouth and were booked on the first train home the next day, but we’d completely run out of money.
The thing I remember most about those nights is the cold. Lying down or staying still it would creep into your bones. You spend a good deal of time moving around or finding reasons to hang out in all night service stations to warm up. The second is the grinding exhaustion of the next day. It’s a new level of fatigue.
The idea that rough sleeping, even in a tent is a ‘lifestyle choice’, as Home Secretary, Suella Braverman suggested in her most recent tirade is as outrageous as it is out of touch. Thankfully her mean-spirited plan to seize the tents of the destitute and criminalise homeless charities trying to help was excised from the King’s Speech - the legislative address that sets out the government's planned agenda - before the monarch was forced to deliver it, but it tells you everything you need to know about the moral compass of some members of the Conservative party.
There is a housing crisis in this country, particularly here in Edinburgh. Rough sleeping is on the rise. And we would all do well to remember, as we mark Armistice Day this weekend that some of those sleeping rough are veterans who have seen combat in the service of this country.
Those who have been forced out onto the streets would choose a warm bed in a room of their own in a heartbeat. But financial problems, addiction issues, mental ill health and other complex and chaotic life experiences mean that all other doors are closed to them. Both our governments should be addressing the root causes of homelessness and providing support, not seeking to remove the only shelter that might be available to them.
The crisis is multifaceted. Rents are too high, social housing is vastly oversubscribed and what council accommodation there is suffers from dilapidation and overcrowding. Reports of damp in council housing have skyrocketed. In many ways this is a perfect storm.
That’s why, as I write this, I’m about to host my second housing summit in the Scottish Parliament to address the crisis in the capital. I have invited representatives from all parties, council officials and other key stakeholders from the housing and charity sector to identify several key strands of work that need to be done to tackle the issues at the heart of the problem.
This is a project I’m determined not to put down. Lib Dems build our policy based on evidence and experience. Indeed, our housing spokesperson, Paul McGarry was himself homeless for nine months in his teenage years. His advice and that of others attending our summits is giving me a real sense of where we need to direct policy. And I’ll give you a hint, - it’s a million miles from the dog whistle comments of Suella Braverman.
Taking people’s tents away isn’t going to see them opt for a comfy bed in a warm safe home, if that bed just isn’t there in the first place.