British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says if his party were in power, they’d give every homeless person a house.
England has had a spike in its homeless population in recent years with an estimated 4,751 in the winter of 2017, an increase of 15% from the previous year. And while the U.K.’s next election isn’t until May 2022 — though a special election can be called and the Labour Party is leading the Tories right now — Corbyn says the solution is simple.
“[We would] immediately purchase 8,000 properties across the country to give immediate housing to those people that are currently homeless,” Corbyn told the BBC. “At the same time we would require local authorities to build far more.”
That means safe housing would be a guaranteed right for every person in the country.
Corbyn said the plan would empower local authorities to temporarily use vacant housing for “rough sleepers,” aka homeless people, while more permanent shelters are built. He criticized developers who build luxury properties and intentionally leave them unfilled even as the country grapples with a growing homeless population:
“There is something grossly insulting about the idea you would build some luxury block and deliberately keep it empty. Surely we have to have a social objective and a social priority in our society?”
Some on this side of the pond even agree with Corbyn, though the U.S. has a far greater number of homeless individuals nationwide.
That hasn’t stopped a handful of American cities from experimenting with similar approaches. In Chicago, a pilot program by the University of Illinois Hospital and the Center for Housing and Health placed 26 chronically homeless individuals into housing for the winter, with the thought that living indoors is cheaper than seeking cold-related emergency medical services. The hospital invested $1,000 per month in supportive services for each person in the program, whereas a single day in the hospital’s emergency room can cost more than $3,000.
At the same time, housing isn’t the only factor in addressing the multiple issues homeless communities face. In Utah, initial reports about the success of a housing program have shown more mixed results in hindsight, as state officials struggle to deal with an ever-evolving homeless population affected by a multitude of complicated factors — including the opioid crisis, mental illness, and economic challenges.
Homelessness is a serious issue. Mental illness, addiction, and poverty are real challenges that communities across America, the U.K., and elsewhere have always struggled with.
But sometimes the best solution is also the most simple: If you want to combat homelessness, give the homeless a place to live. It could save money and give people hope for a better life.