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A brief encounter with a child has brought the housing crisis in the South Hams into sharp relief for one Kingsbridge resident.
Polly Wollfenden met a four- or five-year-old boy in the bathroom of a local pub, drying his younger sister’s hair. When she asked whether they were having fun on their holiday, the boy said “we live in a caravan because there is no home for us, but we do live here”.
She said that seeing that when “there was so much wealth eating, drinking and enjoying themselves” was “saddening”.
Most visitors to the South Hams, and even many of the residents, don’t see or don’t realise the growing gap between affluent and struggling in the area. For every millionaire buying a second home, there is a family on the brink of homelessness and for every jetsetter down on holiday for a few weeks, there are people relying on food banks.
The need for food banks in the South Hams, especially since the start of the pandemic, has risen sharply, on top of the increase nationally over the last ten years.
Polly connected the situation with a survey currently on South Hams District Council social media, with one of the questions asking “Are you worried about being able to afford your home (rent/mortgage payments) in the coming months/years?”
The charity End Child Poverty has rates of children in poverty in the Totnes region, which covers most of the South Hams, as 31.1 per cent in 2018/19. This rate may have increased with the pandemic in the last few years.
We have contacted South Hams District Council leader, Cllr Judy Pearce, who said she “can’t comment on this exchange” and advised anyone “genuinely homeless” to contact the council on 01803 861234. To find out more information visit the website https://live.housingjigsaw.co.uk/
We have also contacted Anthony Mangnall MP for a comment but he has yet to get back to us.
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