Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 28th November 2018

Homelessness during winter can be deadly. For rough sleepers, those with nowhere else to go, life is already hard enough. The levels of mental illness and substance abuse amongst those living on the street are evidence enough. While in many cases these conditions contributed to their homelessness, even if mental health and substance abuse services hadn’t suffered from endless cuts, the harsh life on the streets is enough to tip people over the edge.

Crawley is building hundreds of genuinely affordable new homes for local people, but for those with complex needs providing a roof isn’t enough, they need more support to be able to re-claim their lives. Where public services have failed, the voluntary sector has stepped up and across West Sussex fantastic charities provide not only food and shelter but the help the most impoverished members of our community need to get back on their feet. That’s why we cannot allow this to become Crawley Open House’s last Christmas.

While these charities stretch the money they’re donated as far as they can, they depend upon public sector grants to provide the level of support necessary to help those with complex needs. Were the county council to go ahead with their proposal to end grant funding for shelters, they wouldn’t be able to keep going, that’s why I kicked off the petition to keep them open, gaining the support of approaching 15,000 people. The largest petition ever received by the county council and one they chose to ignore.

As a council, Crawley been clear we will do what we can to keep services going, but we don’t have the budget to save them all. The county council has both the money and the legal duty to maintain these grants and as citizens we have one last shot at saving them. West Sussex are currently running a consultation on the future of these services and we need people to respond, making it clear that as local taxpayers we object to any proposal which would see the loss of housing related support in our town, make your voice heard by emailing: housing.related.support@westsussex.gov.uk

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