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Government unveils £23m funding to support homeless with substance problems

Rough sleepers across England will receive extra support from a £23 million pot designed to assist the homeless with drug and alcohol issues.
Government figures suggest more than half of rough sleepers in London also have drug or alcohol dependency issues. Credit: Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

Rough sleepers struggling with drug and alcohol dependency across England are to benefit from a multi-million pound funding commitment from the Government. 

Those living in more than 40 areas across England will receive extra support from a £23 million pot designed to assist those with drug and alcohol addictions to access treatment to ditch their habits once and for all.

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Kelly Tolhurst MP, announced the allocation of this year’s government Spending Review on Monday, adding that the programme will be boosted by a further £52 million in 2021/22. 

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Government figures suggest more than half of rough sleepers could be helped, with statistics showing over the past year alone, 61 per cent of those sleeping rough in London said they needed help with addiction problems. 

The funding is to be managed by Public Health England and will enable those without a roof over their heads to access treatment for addiction problems, including detox and rehabilitation services and support from mental health and substance dependence workers.

Both those currently rough sleep and those living in emergency accommodation as part of the Government’s Everyone In programme will be eligible for support. 

“This year we have seen what is possible when a coordinated multi-agency approach to providing support is taken.” – Steve Douglas CBE. 

Homelessness campaigners have welcomed the announcement, who said drug overdoses were one of the main causes of death of people who do sleep rough.

Chief executive of homeless charity St Mungo’s, Steve Douglas CBE, added: “We are pleased that the Government is targeting funding to tackle this urgent issue alongside other efforts to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets.

“This year we have seen what is possible when a coordinated multi-agency approach to providing support is taken. And we at St Mungo’s will continue to work with national and local government, and our local partners, to build on these successes and enable as many people as possible to get the help and support they need to recover from homelessness.” 

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter added: “Funding for these essential support services is obviously welcome, but the government must recognise and address the causes of homelessness if they’re going to tackle it.

“These support services will only work if someone is able to access safe emergency accommodation. With the cold weather and Covid still at large, the government must make clear to councils that they should accommodate and support anybody facing the streets. And they must provide the affordable, safe homes we need by investing in social housing.”

The announcement comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to tackle the looming crisis in rough sleeping this Christmas and keep his pledge to end homelessness for good.

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In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Starmer urged the Government to ensure rough sleepers have access to Covid-secure winter shelter, warning the country is at “the tip of an iceberg” of poverty and destitution amid the pandemic.

The government has said spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year is over £700 million, with the Everyone In campaign helping to protect thousands of lives during the pandemic by housing rough sleepers in safe accommodation. 

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Kelly Tolhurst, said: “We know that one of the main issues facing those sleeping rough, or at risk of homelessness, is misuse of drugs or alcohol and what a crippling effect these substances have on people’s lives. 

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“While our ‘Everyone In’ campaign has helped to protect thousands of lives, we still need to work hard to break the cycle of rough sleeping for good.   

“This funding will provide thousands of vulnerable people with the support they need to get on the road to recovery to rebuild their lives away from the streets for good.”