Council’s hard line on rough sleepers based on false figures, says charity

Homelessness charity the Simon Community has criticised Westminster
Council’s plan to withdraw services from rough sleepers unless they
take up a place as an “Alice in Wonderland” policy.

The London council claims it has already reduced the number of
rough sleepers in the borough from 237 in 1998 to 109 this summer.
However, the Simon Community found there were 203 rough sleepers in
a count of all the borough’s streets last week, making the
council’s claim “wildly inaccurate”.

The charity also contacted the 33 hostels in the borough that have
a total of 1,517 beds, but only eight were available, and six of
those were for people aged under 26.

From October 2004, the council will only offer health care and
benefits to rough sleepers who report to shelters or hostels. In
the meantime, a rapid intervention team will be urging rough
sleepers on the street to accept accommodation (news, page 14, 7

The Simon Community’s director Mike Tristram urged Westminster to
rethink the plans “based on facts rather than wishful

But councillor Michael Brahams, cabinet member for social and
community services in Westminster, said: “We have no faith in the
Simon Community’s count. Our last ‘hotspot’ count on 29 July was

He also said the council’s outreach workers can access beds in
Westminster that the charity is unaware of including a specialist
night shelter for older, more entrenched rough sleepers. “On 18
August we had access to 100 beds,” said Brahams.

Meanwhile, homelessness charity Shelter launched a guide this week
to help professionals working with people with housing problems
that are linked to relationship breakdown and domestic violence.
Last year, Shelter helped 6,782 such people.

The guide includes an overview of legislation about relationship
breakdown and housing, and information and advice on domestic

Government figures show that 27,880 households lost their home
following relationship breakdown in the year to March 2003, an
increase of 7 per cent on the previous year. Nearly 70 per cent of
those were because of violence.

– Relationship Breakdown and Housing: A Practical Guide
and government homelessness statistics available at

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