Homelessness agencies must do more to reduce the numbers of persistent rough sleepers to “as close to zero as possible,” the government said yesterday.
Housing minister Ian Wright published a draft action plan to target people including “revolving door” service users who move frequently between hostels and the streets. He said that while there had been progress in reducing rough sleeping over the past decade, more needed to be done.
The plan, which is open for consultation, suggested that hard-to-reach groups such as older drinkers could benefit from new ways of working including personalised support. It also called on hostels to provide access to training and employment and proposed the creation of a London homeless taskforce. Other measures included the provision of 500 units of private rented accommodation in London to enable hostel residents to move on.
There were 1,800 rough sleepers in England in 1997 compared to 498 last year, according to the latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government. A DCLG spokesman said they were “snapshot” estimates representing numbers on any one night, and that around half of rough sleepers were in London.
According to homelessness charity Thames Reach, about 3,000 people still sleep rough in London during the course of a year.
Thames Reach chief executive Jeremy Swain welcomed the plan, and called on London councils to take more action.
“We are tantalisingly close to London becoming the first major European capital to succeed in ending rough sleeping. However, London is made up of 33 local authorities which together can decide that rough sleeping is an outrage and must be ended or can instead choose individually to see it as not their problem, as long as it stays outside the borough boundaries,” he said.