09 December 2010
St Mungo's today warned that the worrying trend of a rise in rough sleeper numbers in London over the last year looks set to continue, and worsen, in 2011.
The homelessness agency accommodates around 1,600 residents all year round in supported housing ranging from emergency shelters and hostels to semi independent housing and high support projects across London and the south.
The charity is concerned that street numbers will swell with cuts to services that support vulnerable groups at real risk of sleeping rough. Money previously ring-fenced for homeless and vulnerable people under the Supporting People programme is now available to be spent more widely. St Mungo's fears that this will mean some councils could prioritise resources elsewhere, as they make tough spending decisions, without due consideration of the long term cost to society and people's lives.
Given that up to 70% of rough sleepers have mental health issues, any cuts that impact on the services that support the housing of people with mental health problems are of deep concern warns the charity. It is vital that services have the capacity to help people quickly, in the charity's experience, as if people end up sleeping rough for any period of time, their physical and mental health both start to deteriorate.
In the months ahead, St Mungo's among others is facing cuts in its direct services for homeless people. Its largest hostel is threatened with closure, and its homeless prevention service in London prisons is one of 28 services facing loss of funding in a raft of £3.2 million potential cuts planned by London Councils.
Charles Fraser, Chief Executive of St Mungo's, said: "Right now the trend line shows that rough sleeping numbers are rising. Great work is being done in helping people off the streets but we're deeply concerned that the picture will worsen in the year ahead.
"Central government has pledged to protect the most vulnerable and that cuts will be applied fairly but the reality is that some councils are planning cuts in funding to services for homeless people and those at real risk of sleeping rough.
"Local authorities must not be allowed to raid what was the Supporting People coffer for other priorities. There is nothing fair about cuts that hurt the most vulnerable, people with least in their lives. People who end up rough sleeping are already falling through society's safety net. We call on the Coalition Government to ensure that local authorities meet the pledges that have been made nationally, and don't allow vital services to be decimated now, only to have to re-build them, at greater cost, at a later date."
Notes to editors