THE Government’s latest funding-backed pledge to tackle homelessness in the UK offers a “glimmer of hope” to rough-sleepers, but must be matched by longer-term solutions, the Salvation Army has said.
Last week, the Government committed £236 million to finding accommodation for up to 6000 rough-sleepers and people at immediate risk of homelessness in the country. The Prime Minister also appointed Dame Louise Casey to review the issue.
Government figures published last month state that an estimated 4266 people were sleeping rough on a single night last autumn. Although this represented a decrease of nine per cent (411 people) on the same night in 2018, this figure has risen by 141 per cent since 2010 (2498 people). Most rough-sleepers (83 per cent) were male.
The assistant director of homelessness services for the Salvation Army, Malcolm Page, said: “Fewer people being forced to sleep rough is a glimmer of hope, but we have a long way to go to help everyone who is without a safe place to shelter tonight and every night.
“Urgent action and long-term solutions are desperately needed to stop the causes of homelessness in the first place, and to get people off the streets for good.”
More investment in support services was needed, he said. “Quick fixes will not work. The Government must prioritise consistent funding to combat homelessness, to keep its promise to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament. The latest this would be is 2025; so reversing cuts to services, including addiction and mental-health support, must happen now.”
The chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said that “serious investment” in social housing was essential. “Unless the Government tackle the drought of genuinely affordable homes, homelessness is not going anywhere. Rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg: there are literally hundreds of thousands more homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation. . .
“The upcoming budget is the perfect opportunity to champion a new generation of social homes and increase housing benefit, so it covers the basic cost of private rents.”
The founder and director of the charity Hope into Action, Ed Walker, said that the announcement came with a challenge to churches. “Boris Johnson has noticed the tragic situation on our streets and wants to provide more housing. At Hope into Action, we are urging churches to do the same. We believe churches have a role and a responsibility to care for the most needy in their society. . .
“While it is an important role for the Church to lobby and hold the Government to account. . . We argue churches can house the homeless. In Peterborough, for example, we now have 15 churches housing the homeless; so tonight there are 40 people being housed and on a rehabilitative journey all being supported and loved by the local churches. Why can’t this become the norm for every church?”