Theresa May unveils £100m government fund to eradicate rough sleeping in England within a decade

Official statistics revealed earlier this year that rough sleeping in England had increased for a seventh consecutive year

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Monday 13 August 2018 10:26
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'You can't solve homelessness without homes': Charity leaders respond to Tory plans to 'eradicate homelessness'

Theresa May has unveiled a £100m government fund in an attempt to eradicate rough-sleeping in England within the next decade.

It comes as James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, admitted that efforts to tackle homelessness had “not been good enough”, with estimates suggesting as many as 4,751 people sleeping rough on any given night in the country.

He said the government’s homelessness strategy – to be launched on Monday – will offer help to those with mental health problems and addictions, domestic abuse victims, those leaving prison, and will set about researching the scale of LGBT+ homelessness.

But Labour described the prime minister’s plan as “feeble”, claiming it lacked the “urgency” to tackle the rise in rough sleeping while charity Shelter said the plans were not a “total fix” for homelessness.

Earlier this year, official statistics revealed that rough sleeping in England had increased for a seventh consecutive year – up 169 per cent since 2010 when the coalition government came to power.

Announcing the plans, the prime minister said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough, and that’s why we must do all we can to help the most vulnerable in our society to get the support they need.

“But we recognise this is a complex issue – as well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, we have to deal with underlying problems and ultimately help people turn their lives around.”

The new £100m strategy will take a three-pronged approach, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said, including prevention, intervention and recovery.

Up to £30m of the fund will go towards mental health treatment and provide training for frontline staff to help those under the influence of the synthetic cannabinoid spice.

A further £50m will be set aside to fund homes outside of London for people ready to move on from hostels and those seeking refuge from domestic abuse.

Ministers will also pilot accommodation that is tailored for individuals leaving prison in an effort to avoid them ending up on the streets.

And research is also expected to probe the nature and scale of LGBT+ homelessness to determine measures. The Albert Kennedy Trust charity claims that LGBT+ young people comprise up to 24 per cent of the youth homelessness population as they are more likely to experience family rejection, abuse and violence.

“It is simply unacceptable that people have to sleep on the streets and I am determined to make it a thing of the past,” Mr Brokenshire added. “Whether people are at risk of rough sleeping, already on the streets or in need to settled accommodation, we have a solid plan to help the most vulnerable in our society.

While the housing charity Shelter welcomed the “important step” from the government in tackling the “rough-sleeping emergency that’s led to people dying on our streets”, the organisation’s chief executive Polly Neate said: “But let’s be clear, this is a step forward and not a total fix for homelessness. We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting, and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home.

“If the government wants to eradicate rough-sleeping for good, this strategy must be quickly followed by a new plan to build many more social homes and efforts to create real security for those struggling with their rent.”

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the government’s 2027 target meant “waiting almost a decade to deal with the crisis”.

“The funding announced will barely register compared to the reckless Conservative cuts to affordable housing, social security benefits and homelessness services that have caused this crisis. If ministers believed this was a serious plan they wouldn’t be burying it in mid-August,” he said.

“The next Labour government will end rough sleeping within our first term in office, making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.”

Welcoming the government’s announcement, Howard Sinclair, the chief executive of St Mungo’s charity, said: “Rough sleeping is harmful, dangerous and dehumanising and we share the government’s aim that no one should have to sleep rough.

“This strategy is a really important first step towards meeting the 2027 target and shows the government is serious about understanding the problem and getting the right support to people at the right time. There is more work to do, especially when it comes to providing enough stable, safe and affordable housing, but I am encouraged the government has taken on board many of the rough sleeping advisory panel’s recommendations.”

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, added: “Crisis is pleased to welcome this important step towards ending rough sleeping by 2027. Short term measures, such as new funding for non-UK nationals who sleep rough and for dedicated outreach teams will provide welcome relief for those facing the hardships of life on the streets.

“Once people are off the streets, a commitment to a rapid rehousing model can ensure that they never find themselves in this position again.

“If we’re to end rough sleeping, a bold, housing-led approach to tackling the problem is required, alongside a robust strategy to prevent people from becoming homeless that involves departments from across government. We stand ready to work with the government to meet its ambitions.”

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