I am looking forward to attending a very special coffee morning tomorrow, at St John’s Church Hall in Truro. The Hall is home to Truro Homeless Action Group (THAG), who work tirelessly to offer Truro’s homeless a cooked breakfast, a cup of tea, and a friendly chat, every morning of the week and every day of the year. The coffee morning and raffle, held from 10.30 am, will help raise funds for this great local charity and I hope that if you are free and in the area you can pop by to show your support.
It is only now that the true scale of homelessness in Cornwall is being appreciated, and acted upon. Before the election I was a volunteer with THAG and saw firsthand how homelessness in Cornwall was being underestimated, as an urban-centric Labour Government failed to understand that in the countryside homeless people often choose to sleep in farm based caravans and tents, rather than bedding down on the street. Since my election more comprehensive and accurate counts have taken place annually, to determine the number of people sleeping rough in the Duchy, whether in the fields or on the streets. The Government looks at these annual figures and provides corresponding financial support to help Cornwall Council work with partners to get numbers down and help people turn their lives around.
As a result since 2010 Cornwall has received over £3 million from central government to help tackle homelessness. I am working with THAG and other great local groups, including St Petroc’s Society, to ensure that this money is spent in ways which prevent homelessness, provide homeless people with increased comfort and security, whilst opening up new opportunities for them to rebuild their lives. This winter there are new overnight shelters for homeless people in Cornwall, providing warmth and shelter as the weather deteriorates. Crucially shelters allow health and housing professionals to work with homeless people in a safe space, helping them deal with health and addiction problems, and take steps towards getting stable accommodation and employment.
I am pleased that this work is beginning to pay off, with the number of rough sleepers in Cornwall having fallen since 2010. However more must be done to help those living on our streets, in our woods and in our fields.
Of course it is not just the homeless that are in need this Christmas. The tireless volunteers who run local food banks continue to provide supplies and support to people in severe financial difficulty. Over the past eight months my office team has been privileged to work alongside these volunteers, attending weekly food banks to provide help and advice. This is wide ranging and includes helping food bank clients access education and support services leading to new employment, highlighting the free debt advice that means people don’t need to use loan sharks and pay day loans, to ensuring that people are getting all the benefits they are entitled to. This crucial work will continue into the New Year.