It is sobering to note that on any given night around 5,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets of our nation.
At the last election the Conservative manifesto set out a clear aim to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminate it entirely by 2027. But why not build a few thousand extra houses and accelerate that deadline to this year? Or tomorrow?
Unfortunately, rough sleeping in the modern age is not just about number of houses. Every rough sleeper faces a very unique set of multi-faceted, complex and inter-linked issues, encompassing mental health, domestic violence and gaps in the welfare net.
That is why I’m pleased to see that the Government is following up its work passing the Homelessness Reduction Act last Parliament by taking a thorough and systematic look at how to work closely with local authorities to identify service gaps and create tailored packages to tackle rough sleeping in each local authority facing high levels of rough sleepers.
Nonetheless, whilst new resources are not the silver bullet to solving rough sleeping they are a perquisite. That is why I am so pleased to see the Government set up a new £30m Rough Sleepers Initiative fund to target at rough sleepers to get them the targeted help they need to get off the streets and rebuild their lives.
The model that this project is based on is the internationally proven Housing First approach, which targets the complex and individual problems each rough sleeper faces in order to get them off the streets into stable and affordable accommodation.
In total, 500 new staff will be employed specifically to reduce rough sleeping, including outreach workers, specialist mental health professionals and dedicated co-ordinators. It will also provide for over 1,700 new bedspaces, including both emergency and settled accommodation. They will be led by Jeremy Swain, the Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, who has over 30 years of experience in helping rough sleepers.
This funding has been targeted at the 83 local authorities with the highest number of rough sleepers. Whilst the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has too few rough sleepers to qualify, one of the 83 is Slough Borough Council, part of which falls within my Windsor Parliamentary constituency. It will receive £260,000.
This is a major step forward to ensuring that we live in a country where everyone has opportunity to make the most in life. Coupled with the £1.2bn this Government is already spending in order to prevent homelessness and rough I am very confident that it will have a dramatic effect on the number of rough sleepers.