St Mungo’s has welcomed the Government’s announcement about a new initiative to help people sleeping rough, especially for those needing mental health support, but urged the Government to hold firm on its commitment for a new long term strategy.

Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome first step towards the long term strategy to end rough sleeping that is so desperately needed.

“The Rough Sleepers Initiative in the 1990s significantly reduced rough sleeping in London, and we hope the Government is even more ambitious for the new RSI. Rough sleeping is harmful, dangerous and dehumanising and yet there are at least 4,751 people sleeping rough every night in England. This number has increased by169% since 2010. This is a scandal in this day and age. We are pleased to see that the Secretary of State has said that no one should ever have to sleep rough.

“We agree immediate action is needed to move people off the street and out of danger. Effective outreach services are a crucial part of this, and so is emergency accommodation and assessment and support for people with mental health and substance use problems.

“We also welcome commitments from the Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to step up and play their part and look forward to seeing these backed up by action and funding.

“The RSI in the 1990s ran alongside the Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative, which provided funding for specialist outreach teams offering treatment and accommodation to people sleeping rough with mental health problems. Several of these services have since disappeared. Those that still exist have faced dramatic, and ongoing, budget cuts. Our research shows people with mental health problems spend longer sleeping rough.

“The decision announced by the Department for Work and Pensions to reverse the cut to the housing element of Universal Credit for 18-21 year olds is another positive sign that all departments are willing to play their part.

“Careful implementation will be key and we welcome the focus on spreading best practice. Moreover, these immediate steps must be aligned with measures to prevent people sleeping rough in the first place and long term support to ensure people don’t return to the street, that they can sustain homes, relationships and lives in a fulfilling way.

“While welcoming this news, and the coming into force of the Homelessness Reduction Act on 3 April, we call on the Government to hold firm on its commitment for a new long term strategy to end rough sleeping.”