The manager of Chesterfield charity Pathways has welcomed a Government plan to end rough sleeping on England’s streets.
Prime minister Theresa May has announced the Conservatives will spend £100million to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027 – and ‘help people turn their lives around’.
The new strategy will focus on stopping people from becoming homeless in the first place, provide support for mental health and addictions, and help people secure accommodation.
The budget includes £50m for homes outside London for those ready to move on from hostels or refuges and £30m for mental health support for rough sleepers.
A new network of specialist ‘navigators’ will help rough sleepers access services and accommodation.
Ministers are also expected to review legislation on homelessness and rough sleeping, including the Vagrancy Act, which dates back to 1824 and still makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.
According to latest Government figures, 12 people in Chesterfield were thought to be sleeping rough each night in autumn last year – up from six in 2010.
Sian Jones, manager of Saltergate-based Pathways, said: “At Pathways we are really pleased to see the introduction of the new rough sleeping strategy.
“The strategy appears to share the ethos of Pathways in that ‘every person should have a place that they can call home’.
“It is a very positive move to see the focus on all aspects of homelessness, from prevention through to recovery.
“Tackling homelessness is always more complex that just providing someone with a house and this strategy seems to stress the holistic approach that is needed.
“It is a hugely beneficial move to look at making health services more accessible to homeless people.
“A high percentage of the people we work with struggle with mental health difficulties and this can be a huge barrier to people being able to move forwards.
“At Pathways we are very lucky to have our job share role of specialist nurses funded by the Clinical Commissioning Group to support our clients who might not access any other health service without this support.
“In order to tackle homelessness it will be important to address all aspects that interplay in such cases.
“For instance simultaneously providing more support regarding benefits, social housing, substance misuse, mental health and the many other interacting factors the can make moving forwards so difficult for people who are homeless.
“Having witnessed the growing homeless population for a number of years, it feels like a very important time for changes to be made to national strategies.
“The introduction of the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 and the new rough sleeper strategy should make it an interesting and positive time to see new creative ways of supporting the current homeless population.”
Prime minister Mrs May said: “Nobody should have to sleep rough and that’s why we must do all we can to help the most vulnerable in our society get the support they need.
“But we recognise this is a complex issue – as well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, we have to deal with underlying problems and ultimately help people turn their lives around.”
Rough sleeping has become an increasingly widespread problem in recent years with the number of people across England affected increasing year-on-year since data was first published in 2010. Over that time, the number of rough sleepers nearly tripled.
In a joint statement, seven homelessness charities who advised ministers hailed the strategy as ‘a significant step towards the Government’s goal of ending rough sleeping by 2027, which will make a real difference to people’s lives’.
But the charities – Crisis, Homeless Link, National Housing Federation, Shelter, St Basils, St Mungos and Thames Reach – warned: “For the strategy to work, the Government must also set out bold, cross-departmental plans to tackle the root causes of all forms of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place.
“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.”
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “It’s an absolute joke that a Government which has overseen such an appalling rise in homelessness could ask us to believe they have the will to end the scourge of homelessness.
“Until they accept that welfare policy has driven it, they will fail to address it.”
Pathways looking to move
Pathways needs the public’s help so it can continue to carry out its important work.
Sian said: “If people want to support the work of Pathways then we are always grateful for donations of clothes.
“At present we need men’s jeans, trainers and we always require sleeping bags.
“It is also hugely helpful to get monetary donations so we can use this money where it is needed.”
She added: “Pathways is currently looking for a new building as we have outgrown our current one.
“If people have any information on new buildings coming up for rent we would also be grateful for that support – it would need to be close to the town centre and have its own access.”
For more information about Pathways, visit www.pathwaysofchesterfield.co.uk or call 01246 498204.