A 21 year old homeless woman from Exeter was killed last week after a tree fell onto the tent she was living in.
Two other people living in the tent were injured.
Empty properties that could have housed them stood just yards away.
If not for cuts to council housing and support services she would very likely still be alive.
The woman hadn’t been formally named when Socialist Worker went to press. But all three people were known to local housing service.
Richard Crompton from the Shilhay Community charity in Exceter told Socialist Worker, “No one would want to be out on a night like that unless they had no choice.
“We’ve seen an increase in people sleeping rough. The main issue is a shortage in housing. There’s a long waiting list for social housing and single people can end up at the bottom of the list.”
Exeter has the fifth highest number of rough sleepers and homeless people anywhere in Britain, according to homeless charity Emmaus. There are 170 households in temporary accommodation in the city.
“There’s been a direct impact of cuts to the services that support people in accommodation,” said Richard. “That leads to people losing their accommodation and many end up sleeping rough again.”
The Tories want to cut housing benefit for people under 25 altogether. This will push more people out into the streets as Britain’s weather becomes more extreme.
Scientists predict worsening weather due to climate change. Yet the Tories have repeatedly blocked attempts to cut the pollution that causes it.
And they are cutting the services that deal with disaster. They slashed flood defences by 27 percent in their first year in office.
Now they are cutting fire services. “People kept stopping to thank firefighters who were working to clear the flooded road,” said Richard Bradbury from Clyst St Mary, a village near Exeter. But they said they don’t want thanks—they want no cuts and job security.”
The Tories privatised water firms during the 1980s. The water board used to dredge the River Gilbrook in Devon every year after floods there in 1961. But after it burst it banks last weekend local residents told Socialist Worker that privatised South West Water doesn’t do it any more.
And the Tories have allowed insurers to take away the policies of people whose homes are at risk of floods unless they pay much higher premiums. The floods have laid bare stark class inequality. Ordinary people bear the brunt of the pain—and the very poorest may even pay with their lives.