Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about measures to tackle rough sleeping, including the Housing First scheme and the associated Crisis campaign.
Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as decent and well-off as ours. Yet the number of people sleeping rough is up by 52% compared to 2010.
I remain concerned that the rise in homelessness is a direct result of a decade of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; unfair caps on housing benefit; soaring rents in the private rented sector; and reductions in funding for local homelessness services.
Throughout the pandemic, local government and housing charities played a vital role in the national effort to help thousands of people off the streets as part of the ‘Everyone In’ initiative. But crucial gains made in 2020 were quickly lost as the Government withdrew support too quickly.
The Housing First pilots in Liverpool, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands have been successful in providing secure tenancies for rough sleepers with multiple and complex needs. Figures from these pilots show that 96% of those who benefited came straight off the streets. I commend Metro mayors across England who have led the way on these important schemes.
Despite promising to expand Housing First at the 2019 general election, the Chancellor allocated no additional investment for it in the Autumn Budget and Spending Review. It says further announcements will be made “in due course”.
For homelessness and rough sleeping more generally, the Chancellor announced plans to spend £630 million in 2022/23 and 2023/24, rising to £639 million in 2024/25. Yet this 2024/25 figure represents a cut of over £110 million compared to the current financial year.
Meanwhile, many more people risk being pushed on to the streets. In October, the Government announced a £65 million support package for low-income earners in rent arrears, but homeless charity Crisis and the National Residential Landlords Association say this is not enough. Alongside the freeze on local housing allowance, the end of the eviction ban, tax rises and cuts to Universal Credit, I am concerned there will be further waves of homelessness.
Ministers should bring forward a sustainable solution to end rough sleeping for good.