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Funding boost for hostels

February 10 2012
At least 1,169 bed spaces in England were lost between March 2010 and March 2011, but the boost will add only 31


A $42.5m government funding boost for homeless hostels will only result in an increase of 31 bed spaces countrywide, according to the latest rough sleeping report.

The report, commissioned by St Mungo’s, estimates that at least 1,169 bed spaces in England were lost between March 2010 and March 2011.

The £42.5m funding boost for the Homelessness Change Programme, announced by Housing Minister Grant Shapps, in October promises an extra 1,200 bed spaces across the UK. But the loss of 1,169 bed spaces over the past year actually means that this will only amount to an increase of 31 bed spaces.

Despite government figures stating that homelessness “remains lower than in 28 of the last 30 years”, three out of five outreach workers claim that homelessness has increased in their area over the past year.

The report highlights concerns over cuts in preventative services and states three of the main causes of homelessness as relationship breakdowns, domestic violence and mental health conditions.

There has been a significant rise in the number of rough sleepers with mental health issues. The report claims this is a direct result of public service failings and indicates that it would be more prudent to focus on tackling the causes of homelessness.

St Mungo’s Chief Executive Charles Fraser said “The cuts in ‘Cinderella’ services such as those supporting people with mental health conditions and victims of domestic violence are of particular concern. As services close or thresholds for accessing support are raised, some vulnerable people are being left with nowhere to turn, with devastating effects.”

The report shows that 71 per cent of respondents believed that there needs to be more emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. The proposed funding boost will be used to refurbish and build new accommodation across the country with an added 37 projects to improve facilities for rough sleepers.

The government will also provide around 320 beds for homeless charities across London, including St Mungos, West London YMCA and Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association. Cheltenham YMCA was also offered funding under HCP but is still awaiting their contract. David Wallace, CEO of Cheltenham YMCA, told The Pavement: “We are hoping to have new accommodation up and running by April 2014. Cheltenham YMCA has had no extra beds for over 10 years.”

Despite claims that Britain has some of the toughest laws to prevent people from ending up on the streets, Shapps’ decision to “shut the door to squatters once and for all” by making squatting illegal sparked outrage amongst legal professionals who have accused Shapps of ‘obscuring’ the law and misleading the public.

The Housing Minister was also accused of putting homeless projects ahead of social housing, after figures from the Homes and Communities Agency showed that there had been a substantial drop in the construction of affordable homes across the UK last year.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government told The Pavement that the extra funding had “been found through Departmental resources.” He added that, “ministers have made clear their commitment to protect the most vulnerable. That is why the government has announced £20million of new funding which for the first time will specifically help single homeless people who all too often slip through the safety net. This money will be used to help prevent homelessness at an earlier stage.

“Every council has a legal duty to ensure that households who are homeless through no fault of their own and in priority need are not ‘roofless’, and can provide free advice and information to prevent homelessness in the first place.”

St Mungo’s has welcomed the funding for more beds after the number of homeless people in London increased by eight per cent last year. “The 10 move-on beds will benefit 10 people initially but then potentially more, depending on how soon people are then able to make a positive move on into more permanent longer term housing. People usually stay in our hostels for up to two years, so these would potentially benefit many more people in future.”

Referring to the No Second Night Out scheme, which the government claims has helped 382 people off the capital’s streets, Fraser added: “We welcome government action taken to stop anyone from spending a second night on the streets and this approach seems very promising.”

“But what’s also needed now is better support to prevent vulnerable people from hitting the streets in the first place - a commitment to ‘no first night out’.”