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New homelessness strategy not enough, say charities

TORY Communities Secretary James Brokenshire was forced to admit yesterday that meagre government efforts to tackle homelessness have “not been good enough” as he launched a new strategy.

The £100 million drive aims to end rough sleeping in England by 2027. Previous strategies have aimed to halve it by 2022.

This is despite the fact that the number of people living on the streets has risen for the seventh consecutive year and now an estimated 4,751 people are sleeping rough on any given night.

Mr Brokenshire is to pledge £30m to be spent on mental health and treatment for substance abuse, including involving the potentially lethal synthetic cannabinoid Spice.

Trained helpers known as navigators will provide help to rough sleepers in accessing services and accommodation, backed by £10 million in resources.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary John Healey said the “feeble plan” would take at least a decade to produce results.

He added that the £100m funding “will barely register” considering the Tories’ cuts to benefits, affordable housing and homelessness services that led to the crisis.

“If ministers believed this was a serious plan they wouldn’t be burying it in mid-August,” he continued.

“The next Labour government will end rough sleeping within our first term in office, making 8,000 homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping.”

Homelessness charity chief executive Polly Neate said that the new strategy would fail to eradicate homelessness without measures to tackle the chronic lack of homes for social rent and the instability of renting in the private sector.

A rough-sleeping advisory panel to the government included charities Crisis, Homeless Link, National Housing Federation, Shelter, St Basil’s, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach.

In a statement on the strategy, they called for “bold, cross-departmental plans to tackle the root causes of all forms of homelessness, and prevent it from happening in the first place.”

It continues: “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.”

Ministers are also expected to review legislation on homelessness and rough sleeping, including the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which still makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.

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