By GMHA (@gmhousingaction)
Last night the combined authority and ten councils moved to provide emergency housing for the homeless in our city-region. They have used hotels, which are now empty. We welcome this move, which was something we demanded eleven days ago.
This move follows similar interventions in London by Sadiq Khan which has provided 300 rooms initially for rough sleepers, with more to be made available in the coming weeks; and in Barcelona where the mayor, Ada Colau has rented 200 holiday apartments below market rent.
But, echoing one of those interviewed by Granada TV yesterday, we have to ask: why does something dramatic have to happen before they do something?
The fact is, that the situation where thousands have slept rough on our streets has always been a political choice. From the choice of the government to cut housing benefit and social housing expansion to that made by our councils to not think creatively about the means to solve this crisis. At every step of the way this human tragedy has been the entirely avoidable result of a housing policy that puts the interests of big capital over the welfare of the people.
The crisis that has been brought about by the pandemic has revealed to us the capacity of the state to act in the face of unfolding human tragedy - when it is forced to. At every stage, the hand of government has been moved to introduce ameliorative measures by pressure from below.
This is a powerful lesson. Homelessness, poverty, inequality - none of these things are inevitable. There can be no more ‘business as usual’ on homelessness or anything else after this crisis.