Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Tough times for charities

May 05 2010
Smaller charities working with homeless people may get swallowed
The number of charities working on behalf of homeless people may fall as smaller charities are swallowed up in the wake of the recession.

Off the Street and into Work (OSW), a 16-person strong charity tackling homelessness through improving access to education, training, employment and volunteering, last month announced it was merging with sector giant Crisis.

Frances Mapstone, its chief executive, said: "In the current economic climate and commissioning environment, it is going to be increasingly difficult for small organisations to survive on their own."

Crisis has already taken over St Botolph's and Health Action for Homeless People. This month, the Salvation Army is in the process of taking over the Salvation Army Housing Association so they, too, can make efficiency savings.

A Homeless Link survey in November 2009 found that half of all homelessness organisations had seen a drop in personal donations, and a over a third reported charitable grants and government funding had gone down. Surviving the economic storm often means reduced competition, redundancies, centre closures, and a lack of services, as reported in The Pavement ['Services under threat from funding cuts' - April issue].

But while staff in the merging companies may moan, not everybody is against efficiency savings. Adrian Fradd, a senior analyst at New Philanthropy Capital, said: "Some might argue that these pressures are not a bad thing and that there are already too many charities working in homelessness.

"And to a certain extent they may be right. When I did some research into UK homelessness charities back in 2007, I was struck by the large number of organisations working in the sector, many of them doing very similar things and probably duplicating a lot of each other's work." He was quick to add that this was different from saying that there were too many services available: "In fact, in some key areas, it was completely the opposite."

Crisis, however, is clear that OSW's employment solutions skills will add another string to its bow. Not much work is being done in this area, despite the path off the street that employment can provide. Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "We look forward to building on the work of OSW over the last 10 years ... [We] now have more evidence than ever before of what works in getting homeless people into sustainable employment and this will give us a stronger voice to government in making the case for reform."