West Midlands MPs have clashed over the state of homelessness in Birmingham after one branded it “worse than I have ever known it”.
Labour’s Jess Phillips said she now had to “step over the bodies of people who have nowhere to live”.
Tory MP Rachel Maclean said the problem had existed for a very long time, while fellow Conservative backbencher Eddie Hughes paid tribute to the city’s YMCA.
.@jessphillips âpretty chuffedâ the LHA rate wonât apply to supported housing, but homelessness sharply rising in Birmingham— PARLY (@PARLYapp) October 25, 2017
Speaking during an opposition day debate on supported housing, Ms Phillips said: “(Mr Hughes) is a passionate speaker and it’s nice to hear somebody in the House who sounds a bit like me.
“I don’t share much of his optimism, because when I walk around the streets of Birmingham in the last seven years, I now step over the bodies of people who have nowhere to live, and that didn’t exist some years ago.
“And in the case of Birmingham, a man was found dead in the streets because he was cold and homeless, and the support services like YMCA in Birmingham, which are brilliant, with the greatest respect, 33 beds for a population of a million people is woeful.”
Walsall North MP Mr Hughes clarified he had said YMCA had secured an additional 33 units of move-on accommodation with Government funding, with the charity having 300 units across Birmingham.
“And we would need an additional 300 to get anywhere close to dealing with the problem,” Ms Phillips replied.
She then took an intervention from Redditch MP Ms Maclean, who said: “I have worked in Birmingham for over 25 years and I can confirm that that problem she’s referred to has existed for a very long time.
“I just wanted to put that on the record.”
Ms Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, replied: “Well I’ve lived there all my life and I worked in homelessness services for most of my adult life, and I can absolutely guarantee that right now, it is worse than I have ever known it.
“And to say otherwise and for me to be positive about it would be a lie, and I am not willing to do that.”
Earlier in the debate, Mr Hughes had said he wanted to “introduce a tone of optimism and positivity” as he praised the work of YMCA Birmingham, who he used to work for.
He said the YMCA had always adapted to its circumstances around funding, and was now setting up social enterprises to generate income which is ploughed back into services.
“They battle on regardless of what governments of any persuasion are doing, they continue to offer excellent work and occasionally, fortunately, they’re subsidised and supported by an excellent Conservative Government, which in the case of YMCA has produced hundreds of thousands of pounds, and they will no doubt continue to deliver that excellent work for at least another 173 years ahead,” said Mr Hughes.