By Edd Bauer for Steve McCabe MP
I was surprised, but pleased, to find my local Labour MP Steve McCabe challenging me on my facebook wall. McCabe wanted to know about the realities of homelessness in Birmingham reported by a campaign I’m involved in The Birmingham Tenants & Homeless Action Group . At the time I wasn’t able to reply properly, with the kind of quality references that might convince a man so dedicated to facts that he on the basis of the dodgy dossier on Iraq not only voted for the war but, also years later because he was still so confident in the facts , voted against any investigation into the war. So I have written this for him now.
Jokes aside, I am pleased that McCabe is taking the time to engage on the issue. However although his comments to me are polite I’m a little worried that a Labour MP and Former chair of the Birmingham city councils housing committee is questioning that homelessness kills. To me it seems a bit of an “are the poor really poor or are they just whingers” question, which I feel deeply uncomfortable when I see it from coming a Labour MP.
McCabe wrote to me “Dear Edward – I wonder if you’d care to publish any details you have of people who have died as a result of homelessness in Birmingham in the past 12 months.”
For me it seems quite detached from reality and I think callous for the representative to parliament of the City with the UK’s highest rate of homelessness to ask this. How can he not know or see what is going on around him?
As it happens there are several Peer reviewed academic studies of homeless people’s lives in UK which puts the average age at death between 43-47[1 &2],. It should be noted this doesn’t just include rough sleepers who are most vulnerable but also people living in temporary night shelters and hostels.
For direct recorded deaths however, Atleast 26 homeless people were known to have died on Birmingham’s streets last year however the sad thing about homelessness is that its victims seem to be invisible to wider society and its death toll largely unreported, so asking for recorded evidence of specific incidents should be a hard ask, but then again this Birmingham so Steve you should read this and this. “sister of murdered homeless man in appeal” & “two men killed in derelict high gate house fire” and this “Gang attacked polish homeless man in Birmingham city centre in racist assult“. This incident happened as recently as this week and is not uncommon.
You’d also be very welcome to come down to our weekly food delivery to homeless people in town to get some stories off the people there if you liked?
One interesting and promising comment made by McCabe was this however “ I invite you to publish the addresses of 20% of these properties” and “I would appreciate the addresses of the empty council properties in my Selly Oak constituency which I estimate on your revised figures should be about 60 as I want to take this up with the council.”.
This is promising, however having taken the time to write to every single labour councillor and MP, I’m a little annoyed that only two Sybil Spence (Soho Ward), who took the time to meet with me and gave some advice to taking the campaign further and now McCabe (via facebook) have actually replied. ( Some tory did reply but the less said about that the better).
So for the avoidance of any doubt and for everyone’s perusal we have published this list of all the empty council properties in Birmingham and mapped them here.
I really hope someone in power can do something about it. However, putting these properties back into use would only be a start. The council and government need to be building new homes and bringing back abandoned private sector properties into use, of which there are 11,000 of in Birmingham.
I Hope this has helped Steve and let us know if you have any luck with following this up. However until we see some serious efforts being undertaken the Birmingham homeless and Tenants action group are going to carry on campaigning in the hope of shaming the council & government into action. Feel free to join us.