Charities share £6m pot to boost efforts to end rough sleeping

A total of 132 English charities will receive a share of the Government cash as vital work continues to stop a return to mass rough sleeping after the Covid-19 lockdown

The UK Government has pledged £6 million for charities to support rough sleepers as the work to prevent a return to the streets continues.

Homelessness minister Luke Hall announced the 132 charities across England will receive cash to help people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus and beyond following a bidding process handled independently by charity Homeless Link.

The money – which is a part of a wider £750m packing to support charities through the pandemic – is intended to help provide beds as well as specialist physical and mental health support to help people break the cycle of homelessness and leave the streets behind them.

Bid winners include North Devon’s young people charity Encompass Southwest and Helping Hands Community Project in Warwick, who upskill people through volunteer placements in their charity shop and café to support them out of homelessness.

LGBT charity Stonewall Housing will also benefit in East London as will Young Women’s Housing Project in Sheffield, Yorkshire and the Humber and Manchester drop-in service Coffee4Craig.

The Government’s Everybody In scheme has shown that rough sleeping can be tackled when the political will is there and, with, calls for Westminister ministers to lay out their plans when the scheme comes to a close at the end of June, this funding gives a small indication of the next step.

Homelessness Minister Hall said: “The staggering effort between councils and charities across the country has ensured that over 90 per cent of rough sleepers known to councils at the start of the pandemic have been offered safe accommodation. This work has helped to protect thousands of lives.

“This money will help charities continue to support these people and ensure they are getting everything they need to prevent them from returning to a life on the streets so they can rebuild their lives once and for all.”

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Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, added: “Homelessness charities that many vulnerable people rely upon have continued to provide invaluable support, despite being hard hit by the current public health crisis.

This emergency funding will enable them to keep running their vital services, from specialist support for women, those experiencing domestic violence and young people, to providing hot meals or upskilling people experiencing homelessness – to name just a few.”

Meanwhile in Scotland, the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) has reconvened to explore the next steps towards ending homelessness in the country.

The group first came together in 2017, led by Crisis CEO Jon Sparkes and featuring Big Issue Changemaker and Street Soccer Scotland founder David Duke, Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn as well as Homeless Network Scotland’s Maggie Brunjes.

Their recommendations played a key role in defining Scotland’s End Homelessness Together Action plan but the Covid-19 pandemic has had such a devastating impact that Local Government, Housing and Planning Minister Kevin Stewart has brought the group back together two years after they delivered their final recommendations.

Writing in a blog explaining why he took the decision, Stewart said: “I have asked the group to work at pace to consider where things need to go next if we are to end homelessness.

“As in the previous work, HARSAG will frame their work around a number of key questions and this will be in light of the new situation we are in due to Covid-19 to inform a homelessness recovery plan.”

He added: “As Scotland emerges from this public health crisis, we want to avoid further entrenching inequality and disadvantage, whilst further galvanising support for ending homelessness.”

Image: Alexander Baxevanis