Government announces winter support for rough sleepers

An extra £66m in funding for safe and warm accommodation for rough sleepers this winter, as well as ‘counselling, rehab and detox services’, has been announced by the government as part of its drive to ‘end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament’. 

kings cross rough sleepers
Rough sleeping rates have been reduced by more than a third according to government figures

The money, which will come from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Department of Health and Social Care, will build on the success of the Everyone In initiative and give people ‘an opportunity to turn their lives around by ending the cycle of addiction’, the government states. 

More than 60 local authorities have now been allocated a share of the £52m Drug and Alcohol Treatment Grant scheme for rough sleepers, while other money will come from the Homelessness Transformation Fund, the Winter Pressures Fund and the Homelessness Prevention Grant. This is the second year of the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Grant (www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/government-pledges-cash-to-help-rough-sleepers/), designed to help people access structured drug and alcohol treatment including counselling, detox and rehab. 

Rough sleeping rates have been reduced by more than a third, the government states, with a further £640m to be invested annually over the next three years as announced by Rishi Sunak in last week’s budget – an 85 per cent increase in funding compared to 2019. 

Gillian Keegan
Gillian Keegan, Department of Health and Social Care

‘This additional funding will not only help those personally fighting drug and alcohol addiction, but it will also benefit their friends, families and the communities who are also impacted by the consequences of substance misuse,’ said care minister Gillian Keegan.

‘As the winter months approach, it’s vital organisations have the capacity to provide single room accommodation to help reduce the number of people sleeping rough while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19,’ added Homeless Link CEO Rick Henderson. ‘I hope this winter provides a blueprint for future models of winter homelessness support, with single room accommodation becoming the norm.’

However, new figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) show that almost 3,000 people were sleeping rough in central London between July and September this year, up from just over 2,500 in the previous three months. The data contains ‘red flags’, says homelessness charity St Mungo’s, as almost half of those people were sleeping rough for the first time. The percentage of people spending a single night on the street was up by almost 80 per cent on the previous quarter, while 425 people were defined as ‘living on the streets’ – an increase of more than 25 per cent. 

‘These figures show some concerning red flags – specifically the large proportion of people who are sleeping rough for the first time, and the number who are now defined as “living on the streets”,’ said director of rough sleeping, Westminster and migrant services at St Mungo’s, Petra Salva. ‘But they also show the effect of the hard work and dedication of the outreach teams and services around London which has resulted in almost eight out of ten people being helped before they have to spend a second night on the streets.’

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