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