Thank you for contacting me about homelessness and rough sleeping.
Like you, I firmly believe that just one person without a roof over their head is one too many, and it is vitally important that the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people and rough sleepers, are helped to get their lives back on track.
The Government has a strong record of preventing and relieving homelessness. Across England, since 2010, there have been over 1. 6 million cases of homelessness prevention and relief. This includes 7,558 cases within our local authority of Calderdale. While this is welcome progress, there is much more to be done, which is why I am glad that over £1.2 billion has been allocated through to 2020 towards tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. Across Calderdale, six people were counted as sleeping rough in 2017.
I welcome the launch of a new £100 million Rough Sleeping Strategy expected to provide rapid support to up to 6,000 vulnerable people either new to the streets or at risk of becoming rough sleepers. This will complement the £28 million Housing First pilots which are supporting the most entrenched rough sleepers to escape from living on the streets by providing them with stable accommodation and intensive all-round support.
Furthermore, I am glad that the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislative reform for tackling homelessness in decades, has recently come into force. This Act, praised by both Shelter and Crisis, requires councils to provide early support to people at risk of homelessness.
In December 2018, the Government launched the Rapid Rehousing Pathway which will help rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, to access the support and settled housing they need to leave the streets for good. The Pathway includes Somewhere Safe to Stay Hubs, which are centres where people can seek shelter while their housing and support needs are assessed. Specialist Navigators will also be assigned to work with up to 1,600 rough sleepers to support them in getting settled accommodation, access local services and sustain a life away from the streets. Lastly, the Pathway provides support to local lettings agencies and support lettings to help rough sleepers into affordable, settled accommodation and help them sustain their tenancies.
Given that homeless people often suffer from mental health problems, I welcomed the announcement that up to £30 million will be spent on mental health treatment for rough sleepers over the next five years.
I am glad that the Government has announced that it will carry out a review of legislation around homelessness and rough sleeping, including the Vagrancy Act, to ensure the best measures are in place and that rough sleepers are not discriminated against.
On the issue of social housing, I welcome recent statistics which show that more than three times as much council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years. That said, I agree with Crisis that more needs to be done, and I am confident that the £9 billion Affordable Homes Programme will help deliver more social housing.
I am confident that, working together with leading experts on homelessness, the Government will achieve the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
For example, St Mungo’s does excellent work in tackling rough sleeping and homelessness, and is a member of the Government-backed rough sleeping advisory panel set up in 2018, which focusses on rough sleeping prevention, intervention, recovery and support. Whilst the number of rough sleepers declined in 2018 compared to the previous year, more needs to be done to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. This is why in January 2019 the Government announced a £500 million boost in funding for housing associations to build 11,000 more affordable homes, including properties for social rent. This will help reach the target of building 300,000 properties each year by the mid-2020s.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP