Charities: Budget Cuts Will Hurt The Homeless

Becky Johnson, North of England Correspondent

Charities that provide services for homeless people fear their funding will be cut at a time when demand is soaring.

Figures show the number of homeless people has increased dramatically in the last year. Many shelters receive local authority funding and expect they will feel the effects of council budget cuts.

In the last year the number of people sleeping on the streets has risen by 23% in England, according to the charity Crisis.

Homeless charity Shelter says over the same period the number of families forced to live in temporary accommodation has gone up by 51%, and one in every 115 households across England is currently at risk of homelessness.

Research published by Crisis has found more people are becoming homeless in England due to the impact of cuts to housing benefit set against the backdrop of the continuing economic downturn. It says young people and families with children are being hardest hit.

Craig Lowthian, 32, has been sleeping rough on the streets of Liverpool for four years.

He became homeless after a relationship breakdown and says he has no alternative because he can't find work. 

"People knock me back all the time because of my criminal past. You can't win either way whichever way you look at it I can't win," he said.

He admits he has an alcohol problem and said he sees no way out of his situation. "There's nothing I can do about it. Your life just adapts to it."

He is helped by outreach workers from the Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool. They go out on the streets to speak to people and encourage them to visit the centre where they can get warm drinks, food, have a shower and get help finding temporary accommodation.

The bulk of the funding for the centre comes from Liverpool City Council with the rest coming from charitable donations. The council has to save £32m in the next financial year so managers at the Whitechapel Centre say its future is uncertain.

David Carter, CEO of the Whitechapel Centre, is concerned if services like his disappear there will be nowhere for homeless people to get help.

He told Sky News: "We provide a safe space to have something to eat, to get clean and to start that journey out of homelessness. If you take that funding away not only do you take away the opportunity to come indoors and be included - you actually take away people's hope."

Aiden McKevitt, 30, has been sleeping rough since he "ran out of money" three months ago. He's currently applying for jobs and is hoping the Whitechapel Centre will find him somewhere to stay in the meantime.

Describing life on the streets, he told Sky News: "It's cold at night. You wake up in the morning and you can't speak because there's bile in your throat. It's rough in the winter."

"There's a lot of organisations where you can get food during the day and a cup of coffee so you don't freeze to death but they do need help these organisations, some funding."

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