Don’t give the homeless money, call this hotline, says minister at charity launch

 

Giving money or food to a homeless person won’t do them any good, the housing minister has said, as welfare charities launch a “homelessness hotline” billed by the Government as an alternative to hand-outs.

StreetLink is a new national helpline for members of the public concerned about a rough sleeper in their area. Backed by 500 homelessness charities, operators will pass on information about a homeless person’s location and circumstances to support services in their area, which will then offer them targeted help.

The scheme, which has been trialled successfully in London, Liverpool and Manchester since last year, is backed by the Housing Minister Mark Prisk who urged people to offer “a hand-up, rather than a handout”.

“Most people know that giving money or food won’t help a rough sleeper find a home, get the healthcare they need, or simply put them in touch with the support available to make sure they don’t become entrenched in the lifestyle or living on the streets,” Mr Prisk said. The Government is providing £250,000 funding for the helpline.

Matt Harrison, from the charity Homeless Link, which is managing the project, said that the question of giving money to homeless people was “a matter of conscience”.

“There are people who have worked with homeless people for years who still routinely give spare change and there are people equally experienced who prefer not to and will put people in touch with services instead,” he said. “What we’re providing through StreetLink is something to do instead, or as well. Phone up our helpline or go to our website and tell us that there is someone sleeping rough in your area and we’ll put them in touch with their local authority and see what can be done to help them.”

The number of people living on the streets has soared since the recession. According to the most recent official figures, nearly 2,200 people were sleeping rough on any one night in Autumn 2011 – up by a fifth in one year. The next set of annual figures, compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government, will be released in February and some charities fear another sharp increase.

Mr Harrison said that anecdotal evidence from homeless shelters suggested that cuts to benefit payments, along with uncertainty about the scale of future welfare reform, has led to private landlords evicting people on short-hold tenancies.

“That indicates that landlords are concerned about whether people have sufficient benefits to cover to cover their rent,” said Mr Harrison. “We don’t know what the impact of the other welfare reforms will be but we’re concerned about it.”

However, Mr Harrison said he was hopeful that helpline pilot schemes carried out in areas with high levels of homelessness had already lowered the homeless population. In London, the “No Second Night Out” trial has led to 70 per cent of new rough sleepers in 2011 spending only one night on the streets, compared to 54 per cent in 2010.

Case study:

Shaun Collins, 53, was sleeping rough in a Barking churchyard for three weeks earlier this year. A paramedic alerted No Second Night Out and he was taken to an Islington hostel. Today he is moving into rented accommodation in East Ham.

I ended up homeless because of a relationship breakdown. My wife moved out after only a few months and left the country and I’m now in an expensive legal battle with her. I had to move in to a bed sit and then moved from one friends home to another. I was depressed and drinking too much. I wasn’t happy in the home I was living in but had nowhere to go – so I moved out and slept rough. I didn’t have a clue what services were out there. I didn’t know anywhere I could go. The people from No Second Night Out gave me the time of day. Now I’m registered with six or seven employment agencies. In the New Year I’m hoping to be able get work again on building sites. We all make mistakes and I think everybody deserves a second chance. People don’t sleep on the streets by choice. The more people are aware that there is something out there for them the better.

To let Streetlink know about a homeless person in need of help in your area call 0300 500 0914 or visit www.streetlink.org.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor