Rough sleeping strategy won’t work without more social housing

MORE focus on building social housing and a re-assessment of welfare reforms are essential to any efforts to tackle rough sleeping, an industry chief has said.

The comment comes after the Government announced its £100 million strategy to halve the numbers of rough sleepers by 2022 and end it entirely by 2027.

Under the proposals, it is said up to 6,000 vulnerable people will receive “rapid” specialist assessment and support.

The strategy announced this morning by the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) will follow a three-pronged approach:

  • Prevention – understanding the issues that lead to rough sleeping and providing timely support for those at risk
  • Intervention – helping those already sleeping rough with swift support tailored to their individual circumstances
  • Recovery – supporting people in finding a new home and rebuilding their lives

According to the ministry, this system has prevention “at its heart” and will focus on stopping people from becoming homeless in the first place. It will also provide support to find work and live independently.

Longer term, the strategy intends that those who are sleeping rough will be rapidly housed and offered “comprehensive support” to ensure their specific needs are met so that they can move into suitable permanent accommodation at the earliest opportunity.

“It is simply unacceptable that people have to sleep on our streets and I am determined to make it a thing of the past,” said communities secretary, James Brokenshire MP.

“Whether people are at risk of rough sleeping, already on the streets or in need of settled accommodation, we now have a solid plan to help the most vulnerable in our society.

“And this is not just about putting a roof over their heads but helping them find a place to call home. They need and deserve our support and, through our expert-backed strategy, I am confident they will get it.”

But National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said that while the strategy was welcome, more was needed.

“People sleeping on the streets because they don’t have a home of their own is a desperate situation and one that needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“We welcome the Government’s intent to end rough sleeping by 2027. There is much to be valued in this strategy – practical measures and new funding that will really help ease the current situation.

“But if we’re to bring about a lasting end to rough sleeping we need targeted investment in new homes for rough sleepers, a significant increase in homes for social rent overall, and a full assessment of the impact of welfare reform on rough sleeping.”

This latest strategy was developed across government departments, and in conjunction with the Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel. In a joint statement, the housing and homelessness organisations that took part in this body echoed Orr’s sentiments above.

“This strategy is a significant step towards the Government’s goal of ending rough sleeping by 2027, which will make a real difference to people’s lives. As members of the advisory panel, we welcome the new funding commitment for dedicated outreach teams and for emergency bed spaces, while the announcement of nationwide trials of a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ duty and the review of the vagrancy act have the potential to pave the way for desperately needed reforms, preventing people sleeping rough.

“However, 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.

“To end rough sleeping by 2027, the Government must build on today’s welcome announcement and set out plans to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place. The ambitious target that the Government has set itself will only be achieved if it is equally bold in addressing the policies that cause rough sleeping.”

Nick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, added: “Homeless Link welcomes this strategy as a positive starting point setting out a range of initiatives that could make a significant impact on reducing rough sleeping.

“However, to end rough sleeping for good the Government will need to ensure this plan is built on and prioritise tackling the structural causes of homelessness, including action on reducing poverty, urgently addressing the chronic shortage of low-cost housing and ensuring an effective welfare safety net.”

However, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey MP, called the strategy “feeble”.

“The Government’s rough sleeping plan has unravelled just hours after it was announced,” he said. “It’s now clear there is no additional money for the Housing Department to tackle the crisis of rough sleeping. Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 thanks to decisions made by Tory Ministers, but this feeble plan lacks any urgency.”



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