A homeless man has been found dead in his tent in Milton Keynes. He is the third homeless person to die on the city’s streets since the start of the year. In just the last three years Milton Keynes has seen homelessness rise by an astonishing 237%.
Following news of the death, Milton Keynes People’s Assembly has called an emergency meeting, and released the following statement:
“As the weather gets worse it’s inevitable there will be more suffering in the streets. The likelihood of more deaths increases every day. No human being deserves to suffer and die alone in a tent. Many homeless people have complex needs and the lack of safety, security and warmth that most of us take for granted only makes these issues worse. Anyone who says housing homeless people isn’t the solution can’t be taken seriously. People deserve decent homes and the support they need to live happy, healthy lives. We live in a town where there are more empty buildings than homeless people.”
The tragic death of Jimmy Owen, a popular character who was well-known locally, has led to a demand for the council to take urgent and meaningful action to tackle the problem of people facing the prospect of sleeping rough over the coming winter months.
A new night shelter run by local churches and volunteers is due to open on the 1st December and will remain operational over the winter months until March 2017. It is not yet clear how many of Milton Keynes 100 rough sleepers it will be able to cater for.
One of Jimmy’s close friends said that:
“The night shelter project is good and we’re grateful. But it came too late for Jimmy. It’s cold now and it may still be cold in March. We need an all year round place for people like us to go. We’re all gutted about Jimmy. But we’re not surprised another homeless person has died. There’s 100 more of us out there. How many more deaths will it take before the authorities listen to us?”
Last year the city council pledged to construct 200 new rental properties by 2017. However, in the last twelve months the council has received 2,400 homeless applications. Milton Keynes has 6.5 homeless people per 1,000 households – which is a bigger proportion than Manchester (3.73), Liverpool (0.8), Bristol (4.65), Newcastle (1.35), and Leeds (1.15).