'Rough sleeping' should be recorded as a cause of death says Jeremy Corbyn on visit to Northampton

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed a crowd of charity and church leaders in Northampton about homelessness.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 12:38 pm
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was in Northampton yesterday and made a speech at the Saints' ground and later spoke with charity bosses and civic leaders at the Doddrige Centre. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

The opposition boss spoke to party activists in Northampton yesterday morning where both parliamentary seats are held by Conservative MPs.

Mr Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of using the Queen to deliver a pre-election party political broadcast for the Conservative Party and reeled off a list of plans including the climate emergency, Brexit, homelessness and the NHS.

At a round-table discussion a the Doddrige Centre in St James later in the day he spoke to civic leaders and charity bosses from Northampton about tackling homelessness.

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It comes after the Office of National Statistics this month released data on the number of homeless deaths in 2018, per local authority.

Northampton had the highest death toll in the county with three homeless deaths officially recorded last year - as opposed to none in Daventry, Kettering, East Northants and Corby.

Both Robin Burgess, CEO of the Hope Centre in Northampton, and Stan Robertson of Project 16:15 in Northampton contested these official figures and said they know more homeless people died.

When the Chron asked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday whether he thinks homeless deaths should be recorded differently, he said: "[They are] absolutely right. People that die as homeless people are often recorded as dying for a particular medical cause.

Reverend Haydon Spencely, Rector of All Saints Church Oliver Coss and Sikh leader Amarjit Singh Atwal who is a volunteer at the Langar Seva in Northampton who helps to hand out free food and drink to residents.

"Hypothermia, for example, is not a medical cause. It's brought about by being cold and if you die as a homeless person and you're rough sleeping I want that recorded as the reason and so that we get a real picture of it.

"The number of homeless people that, sadly, die prematurely is because of the shortage of housing and we have to deal with the housing crisis. That means regulating the private rental sector, it means building council houses, it means an attitude of giving people security of where to live."

Rector for All Saints Church, Oliver Coss, said at times there had been hostility between local government and charitable organisations in Northampton, which has meant there has been a breakdown in recording homeless people living on the streets.

Haydon Spencely who is the rector for Emmanuel Church in Weston Favell said The Weston Favell Food Bank fed 3,000 people last year, which included 1,200 children.

Reverend of Emmanuel Church in Weston Favell Haydon Spencely.

He said: "There are 15 schools in my parish and I go into ten of them at the moment, and I've met a lot of children who are not homeless but they could be.

"There is a chance that given another month or two this is a family who won't have a secure house but are holding on by their fingernails."

Stan Robertson, who runs Project 16:15, a 'breakfast in bed service' for the homeless, said he gives homeless people 'value and worth'.

"What we do, it's not about the food," he said.

Stan Robertson who runs Project 16:15 in Northampton town centre.

"A lot of people moan about us putting food on the street but it's not about that.

"We are there when you are not. We are there when they wake up in the morning and someone has robbed them in their tent."

He also said he has had to deal with the immediate effect of feeding someone who has been sexually abused.

Mr Corbyn added: "You go to any park anywhere in the country now and you see a tent. Ten years ago if you saw a tent in a park you would think it was a tourist park.

"There's something brutal and cold about it, and it can be dealt with."

The Labour party vowed it would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.