Community’s conference voted to make homelessness one of the union’s priority campaigns for the next two years. The campaign committee met over the summer and the union has started to take its message to a wider audience. The first opportunity to do so was at the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton. Andrew Gutteridge spoke on behalf of the union about homeless veterans, saying he’s a “proud steelworker and proud army veteran”.
His full speech is below (check against delivery):
“Conference, under this Tory government, the number of people sleeping rough on the streets has increased by 165%. And of that homeless population, more than approximately 6,000 armed forces veterans are homeless. Men and women who risked their lives for their country are being let down and failed by their own government.
“Imagine coming back from war and finding that the country you were risking your life on behalf of, has turned its back on you. Services decimated, and nowhere to turn. You end up on the street with no place to call home, and no one seems to care.
“Conference, it’s our responsibility to care, because fighting for the vulnerable always has been one of the central tenets of this Party, and it’s one we have to live by.
“And it’s not just about veterans like me, you just have to walk down any high street in the country, in fact just walking around the streets of Brighton to get yourself here today and you will have begun to understand the scale of the problem.
“But that’s just the visible homeless, what about the people couch surfing or trapped staying in hostels for years? There are thousands, upon thousands of people without a home. According to Shelter there are over 320,000 people in this country homeless today.
“Conference, I am proud to have served this country. I am proud of what I fought for. But I want those of us still fighting to have something to return to.
“That’s when I’ll be truly proud of this country, when there’s not hundreds of people lining the streets, desperate and helpless with no support. And instead, there’s properly funded services, a home for every person who needs one, and a country where people really care.
“My union launched a priority campaign to tackle homelessness this year. We made a real commitment to stand up and be counted. To do something that would make a difference. That’s why I’m here today, on behalf of my union calling on the Labour Party to:
“Conference, this is a social crisis. But the Labour Party has a long and proud history of working together, to find solutions to difficult challenges. To solve this crisis, we must do so again.”