Homelessness charities have welcomed the Government’s new £100m strategy to eliminate rough sleeping on England’s streets by 2027 – but warned that it is not a ‘total fix’.
In a joint statement, seven homelessness charities who advised on the strategy said it would make a real difference to people’s lives’.
But they argued that more measures would also be needed – including a significant increase in social housing, more security for renters and the reversal of policies which leave migrants homeless.
The new strategy, revealed by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, will offer support with mental health and addictions as well as help with accommodation.
Based on a three-pronged approach of prevention, intervention and recovery, it focuses on efforts to stop people becoming homeless in the first place, with swift, targeted support to get those in crisis off the streets and into long-term housing.
The strategy includes £50 million for homes outside London for people ready to move on from hostels or refuges and £30 million for mental health support for rough sleepers.
A new network of specialist ‘navigators’ will help rough sleepers access services and accommodation.
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There will be training for frontline staff on how to help people under the influence of artificial cannabinoid Spice.
Ministers are also expected to review legislation on homelessness and rough sleeping, including the Vagrancy Act, which dates back to 1824 and still makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the strategy would help homeless people ‘turn their lives around’.
She 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 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 charities involved in the strategy – Crisis, Homeless Link, National Housing Federation, Shelter, St Basil’s, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach – warned: ‘For the strategy to work, the Government must also set out bold, cross-departmental plans to tackle the root causes of all forms of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place.
‘This must include plans to build significantly more social housing, to foster greater security for renters, to ensure people have access to benefits and other support they need to help them keep their homes.
‘We also need to see a reversal of policies that leave migrants homeless and destitute, and healthcare, mental health and substance misuse services that are available and truly accessible to those who need it.’
Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey dismissed the strategy as ‘a feeble plan that lacks any urgency to tackle the crisis of rising rough sleeping’.
Mr Healey said: ‘The scale of the problem is clear today but the Government’s target means waiting almost a decade to deal with this 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.’
Mr Healey said the next Labour government would end rough sleeping within its first term by making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.
Around 4,751 people are estimated to sleep rough on any given night in England.