Caritas Salford has welcomed the Government’s promise to end rough sleeping by the end of this parliament, but called for ‘long-term solutions’ to a complex problem.
This week, the Government announced millions of pounds in funding to help people off the streets this winter. Government figures published in November estimated that 8,442 people were sleeping rough in England over the month of September 2023, a rise of 17% since June that year and up 27% since the same period in 2022. Minister for Rough Sleeping Felicity Buchan said: “We are determined to deliver our manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping.”
Patrick O’Dowd, director of Caritas Salford, a charity which supports people experiencing homelessness, poverty, isolation and discrimination in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, told the Universe: “It’s great to hear the Government stressing the importance of ending rough sleeping and we will watch progress extremely closely and of course welcome and support any commitment to do so.
“However, it’s vital that the underlying issues which lead to people experiencing homelessness are addressed too, as well as better support for people who aren’t rough sleeping but don’t have a safe, secure place to call home. If those aren’t addressed, then many people across our communities will still be denied basic human dignities that everyone deserves.”
The Government said it has invested more than £547 million in its Rough Sleeping Initiative, which is part of a wider package of support backed by some £2 billion of government funding over three years, including helping people to find work, manage their finances, and access mental and physical health services.
Mr O’Dowd explained how funding cuts have affected his charity. He said: “As a charity our funding sources continue to be cut or reduced and it’s increasingly difficult to meet the need to support people who are literally facing acute crisis. The Government could still meet the target that they have set to end rough sleeping if they gave local authorities and charities the extra funding that is needed.”
The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, which published a report last September, said the Government target will be missed amid “chronic and unresolved” issues in the housing system, with the country facing an affordability crisis that is pushing more people on to the streets, and as pressure on public services results in a lack of early support to help prevention.
Mr O’Dowd dismissed short term solutions, such as moving people from the streets into unsupported, short-term night shelters and unsupported Bed and Breakfasts.
“A more comprehensive strategy is required to ensure that people are properly empowered and supported to transform their lives with dignity for the long-term,” he said.
Picture of person sleeping rough: Yui Mok/PA Wire Copyright notice:© 2024 PA Media, All Rights Reserved