News ‘None of us can af­ford to be com­pla­cent about this’

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

COVEN­TRY’S Lord Mayor has backed our home­less­ness cam­paign and pledged to do all he can to help those out in the cold this Christ­mas.

Coun­cil­lor Tony Skip­per has been so moved by the plight of those on the streets or with­out a fixed home that he has made the is­sue a pri­or­ity of his time in of­fice.

The former cabi­net mem­ber for hous­ing said: “I would urge peo­ple who want to help this Christ­mas to do­nate to or vol­un­teer with one of the char­i­ties or or­gan­i­sa­tions that have been fea­tured in the Tele­graph. When it comes to home­less­ness I would say to any­one apart from the most wealthy in so­ci­ety that it could hap­pen to you or me. Per­sonal cir­cum­stances can change in an in­stant. That’s why none of us can af­ford to be com­pla­cent about this. I’m de­lighted to back the Tele­graph’s cam­paign and that a lo­cal news­pa­per is high­light­ing this im­por­tant is­sue.” Cllr Skip­per says he’s not shocked by what is hap­pen­ing in the city.

He said: “Coven­try is a very un­equal city, es­pe­cially in terms of health and fuel, so I’m sad­dened but not sur­prised that there is a ris­ing prob­lem with home­less­ness here.

“It’s partly due to de­ci­sions and ben­e­fits re­forms na­tion­ally caus­ing the rate to rise across the coun­try. For many peo­ple who have fallen into cri­sis it’s com­pletely be­yond their con­trol. Th­ese are not lazy peo­ple, th­ese are peo­ple whose only fault is hav­ing stretched fi­nances and be­ing on the wrong side of the prop­erty mar­ket.”

Cllr Skip­per, who rep­re­sents Rad­ford ward, vis­ited the city’s Food­bank – the largest in the coun­try – at its main of­fice and dis­tri­bu­tion point in Bin­ley last week. The oc­ca­sion marked the life­line’s 100,000th user, which was a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment re­flect­ing the city’s gen­eros­ity but also the sheer scale of need.

Cllr Skip­per said: “I was im­pressed with how well or­gan­ised it was and the fan­tas­tic work done by staff and vol­un­teers but I was also taken back by how much need there was. I had al­ready vis­ited the Food­bank in my ward on Lawrence Saun­ders Road where the wel­come was tremen­dous and they told me about the de­pot.

“When I got there what struck me was the sheer size of the prob­lem and the fact that th­ese are peo­ple are not fall­ing home­less through no fault of their own.”

Cllr Skip­per be­lieves a lack of af­ford­able and so­cial hous­ing in Coven­try, where the coun­cil does not pro­vide its own ac­com­mo­da­tion for home­less peo­ple, is one of the root causes of the prob­lem.

He said: “While there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween home­less peo­ple who have a roof over their head and rough sleep­ers, the prob­lem stems from a lack of so­cial hous­ing. We should be in­ves­ti­gat­ing the use of empty prop­er­ties and look­ing for ways of pro­vid­ing homes that peo­ple can af­ford to live in. For my part as mayor I have made home­less­ness a pri­or­ity and want to make my of­fice a proac­tive one. “

Cllr Skip­per also hit the streets in Rad­ford on Satur­day col­lect­ing for Coven­try Food­bank in his ca­pac­ity as a Labour ward coun­cil­lor.

He fur­ther plans to visit the Sal­va­tion Army over Christ­mas and to re­turn to his ward to con­tinue fundrais­ing in Ju­bilee Cres­cent on De­cem­ber 23.

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