Monday, April 16, 2018

No Homes for the Homeless

The number of beds in homeless shelters has plummeted since the Conservatives came to power, despite homelessness having soared in the same period, The Independent has learnt. Homeless families, particularly those with children, are often classed as being “in priority need”, meaning councils have a legal duty to find them a home, but single people are usually deemed not to be a priority, leaving many relying on homeless shelters. Almost one in five people accepted as homeless are not considered to be in priority need, and therefore receive little support from local councils.

Beds for single homeless people in England has dropped by almost a fifth since 2010 amid government funding cuts and local council belt-tightening. In the last year alone, 39 per cent of homelessness providers said their funding had decreased, while 38 per cent reported no change in funding over the past 12 months. Despite the escalating homelessness problem, only 15 per cent of providers reported an increase in funding. 

The number of people sleeping rough has risen by 169 per cent, while the figure for people being declared homeless by local councils is up 48 per cent. Despite the worsening problem, research by the charity Homeless Link, which represents providers of homelessness services, found there were more than 8,000 fewer bed spaces for single homeless people in England than there were in 2010. The fall, from 42,655 to 34,497, equates to a 19 per cent reduction, and a 3 per cent drop in the last year alone. Homelessness charities said the decrease in bed capacity was a direct result of government cuts. Some regions have been hit particularly hard. In the last year alone, London has lost almost one in 10 of its homeless shelter beds, while the East Midlands recorded an 11 per cent fall between 2016 and 2017. Every region except Yorkshire and the Humber saw the number of beds for homeless people either fall or remain the same last year.

With around 77,000 single people estimated to be homeless on any given night, it means there are now only enough beds for less than half the people who need them.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: “A 59 per cent decrease in Supporting People funding since 2010 and a removal of its ring fence, along with other local authority funding cuts, have resulted in a fall in bed spaces in services for single homeless people, as councils have been forced to make tough budgetary decisions. This decline is very concerning given that levels of single homelessness and rough sleeping have risen every year over the same period. People who become homeless are extremely vulnerable, and continued investment in homelessness services is vital to ensure individuals receive swift and effective support to help end their homelessness for good. A further challenge comes from a lack of low cost and appropriate housing, which is preventing people from moving on from homelessness supported housing once they are ready, causing a silt-up effect that denies others a much-needed bed space. There is an urgent need to address the housing crisis so that provision is better targeted to those who need it the most.”

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