Most of my adult life I have volunteered with organisations providing help for homeless people. Before I was elected I cooked breakfasts with Truro Homeless Action Group and supported St Petroc’s fundraising. I also took part in the farce that was ‘the rough sleepers count’ - the process that ensured the true scale of the problem was hidden. I am proud to say that this farce ended with the new government. A better process has been put in place that has revealed the scale of the problem in Cornwall. Why is the rough sleepers count process important? Because based on the numbers, the Government provides specific funds to Cornwall Council to help homeless people, especially during the coldest winter months - £800,000 last year.
Last week I spent time with St Petroc’s understanding the extra help that their staff and over 350 volunteers were able to provide over the past winter. St Petroc’s have many years of experience helping homeless people in Cornwall. I also hard about the support they receive from local businesses and the important role this newspaper and other local media played to raising awareness of the problems faced by homeless people in Cornwall.
Just a small amount of the money that Cornwall Council received was given to St Petroc’s and their partners and yet they achieved significant results with people being helped into accommodation and a healthier future.
I am looking forward to reading a full report of how Cornwall Council spent the rest of the £800,000 and the lessons learned from the past winter as well as planned future actions. Helping rough sleepers is one part of a bigger housing problem. Tackling the legacy of chronic housing shortages in Cornwall and the complex web of social problems that often lead to homelessness is not easy work and will take determined and consistent effort. Few things can be more important for us all than trying to enable people, families, communities and the agencies of government, at all levels, to support each other and the most vulnerable people in our community, those in need of a decent home.
I also joined the summit reviewing Cornwall’s Winter Wellness Campaign. Cornwall Council successfully bid for a grant of £130,000 from the Department of Health to enable a wide range of organisations from the NHS to Social Services, care providers and voluntary organisations to come together and provide joined-up help for people suffering from the cold. Direct financial assistance has been provided to those living in cold homes unable to heat them, as well as advice and information on how to obtain free insulation and benefits. Donations given to Cornwall Community Foundation were also used and overall the campaign helped many people to have warm homes over the last winter. Over 5,000 ‘How to Save Money on your Fuel Bills’ booklets produced by my office have also been distributed. I am very hopeful that these organisations will continue to work together so more people have warm homes and save money on their heating bills going forward.