The Government announced £100 million to ‘end rough sleeping by 2027’ this morning (August 13), pledging to spend the cash on mental health and addiction support and housing.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the funds would allow up to 6,000 vulnerable people to received ‘rapid specialist assessments and support’ under the new measures.
There would also be cash to train frontline workers on how to interact with those under the influence of substances like spice.
Half of the funding would go towards increasing housing supply outside of London for rough sleepers or those in hostels or figures.
And around £30m is set go towards mental health support.
Although the move has been largely welcomed by homeless charities in London, the boss of one Brighton charity had concerns.
Brighton and Hove has the second largest homeless population in England after Westminster – there were 178 rough sleepers in the city at the last count in November 2017.
Andy Winter, chief executive of the Brighton Housing Trust (BHT), said: “I have some concerns, not least the absence of a sense of urgency by government. While the 2027 date has long been government policy, it is simply not good enough. The life expectancy of a homeless man is 47 years, and lower, 43 years, for a homeless woman. For people living and dying on the streets, 2027 is Never Never Land.
“I am pleased that the new Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, widely regarded as being a very decent man, said on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning that the government should look at the root causes of rough sleeping, even the impact of its own policies.
“Perhaps he should start with local housing allowance (LHA) which has been frozen by the government for several years and come nowhere near covering housing costs. By way of illustration, the average monthly rent for a one bed flat in Brighton is £941 while LHA for such a property is capped at £612.
“Unfreezing LHA allowance and peg it, once again, to actual rents being charged in an area would be a great start.
“The £50 million fund to provide homes for people ready to leave homeless hostels or domestic violence refuges is all very well. But where are these homes, and with the LHA freeze how can people afford the housing that is available?
“Mr Brokenshire has said that there will be £30 million to be spent on mental health help and treatment for substance misuse. Sadly this amount is a drop in the ocean given the loss of funding over the last eight years for these very services, including the closure of residential rehab services up and down the country. While the £30 million is to be welcomed, please spend it on abstinence-based residential rehabs, thereby providing accommodation and addiction treatment.
“We need funding for council housing with rents that people can afford, not the nonsense of so-called ‘affordable’ rents (80% of the market rate and, again, well above LHA levels) that the government talks about which is well beyond the means of low and average paid workers, and those on housing benefit.
“But at least the government has said something. Whether the £100 million is new money is another question, and whether it is more than a drop in the ocean, we will wait and see. Is this announcement the kick start that the country requires to end rough sleeping, I fear not.”
Announcing the statement today, Mr Brokenshire said: “It is simply unacceptable that people have to sleep on our streets and I am determined to make it a thing of the past.
“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.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of London-based charity Shelter, said: “This strategy is an important step forward in the fight against the rough-sleeping emergency that’s led to people dying on our streets. The scale of the crisis demands urgent action and we are pleased to see the government bringing forward these new plans. We hope this strategy will significantly improve the services available to those at immediate risk of rough-sleeping, and help others to get off the streets and into a safer place to stay.
“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.”
But Labour’s shadow Housing Secretary John Healey MP, said: “Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 thanks to decisions made by Tory Ministers, but this feeble plan lacks any urgency.”
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We welcome any extra funding to help tackle the growing problem of homelessness and look forward to hearing more detail about how this money will be allocated.”