LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain’s government pledged to end rough sleeping in England by 2027 on Monday, a target activists said could only be achieved by investing more in building affordable homes.
Homelessness has more than doubled since 2010 in England, where more than 4,100 people now sleep rough, government figures show.
On Monday the government announced a 100-million-pound ($128 million) package to tackle rough sleeping, including funding for housing, mental health treatment and staff training.
“Nobody should have to sleep rough,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement. “As well as ensuring people have somewhere to live, we have to deal with underlying problems and ultimately help people turn their lives around.”
The government pledged to spend £50 million on building new homes outside London for people living in hostels or refuges and 30 million pounds on mental health support for rough sleepers.
It also said it would improve access to services and accommodation and train staff to help people under the influence of drugs and victims of domestic abuse and modern slavery.
Not all the £100 million is new funding, however. The housing ministry said more than half was new, with the rest coming from its existing budget of more than £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness.
Homeless charities welcomed the plan, but said further “bold” action was needed, including significantly more social housing.
“Let’s be clear, this is a step forward and not a total fix for homelessness,” said Polly Neate, head of Shelter, one of seven charities that advised the government on the strategy.
“We still need to tackle the chronic lack of genuinely affordable homes, deep instability of renting, and problems with housing benefit that are leaving so many without a home,” she said.
An estimated 236,000 people are sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation in Britain, where homebuilding has been declining for decades, driving up property prices.