The Rough Sleeping Strategy is a step in the right direction but fails to address root causes

While the Rough Sleeping Strategy published today will help some people, without more investment in homes, the number of homeless people will continue to rise.

Sarah-Jane Gay works in the Policy team at the National Housing Federation, focusing on homelessness

Sarah-Jane Gay works in the Policy team at the National Housing Federation, focusing on homelessness

13 August 2018

We’ve seen an appalling 169% rise in rough sleeping since 2010. It’s a statistic I’ve heard many times but today, when the Government has published its new Rough Sleeping Strategy, it’s important that we take a moment to think about the thousands of people facing the harsh realities of living on the street.

People sleeping on our streets because they don’t have a home of their own is a desperate situation, it is the sharpest end of our housing crisis, and one that needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.

The National Housing Federation has worked closely with the Government as a member of the Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel to develop a strategy to tackle this crisis, chairing a task and finish group focused on the importance of recovery.

We’re proud to stand alongside Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter, St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and St Basils and others in supporting this work. We worked together to produce recommendations based on a thorough assessment of what is needed to end rough sleeping for good. It was cross-organisational collaboration at its best.

The resulting strategy is an important first step, and there is much to be valued. It reflects a positive shift towards cross-government working. It shows recognition of the complexity of rough sleeping and people’s needs. It understands that different cohorts have different experiences and pledges to do more for women, non-UK nationals, and LGBT people.

It puts in place new measures to intervene in rough sleeping, such as the new Somewhere Safe to Stay pilots, and provides £19m of support funding for people with experience of rough sleeping. It makes significant commitments to review the strategy annually and to develop a wider strategy on homelessness, and we look forward to working with the Government and other panel members to develop and strengthen these strategies in the future.

However, I have to admit I am disappointed that the strategy published today doesn’t take forward many of the recommendations from the panel. While the new measures will help some people, to end rough sleeping the Government must take bold action on the root causes.

The strategy lacks ambition on the supply of social housing and welfare reform. We know we need 90,000 new socially rented homes a year, and we urgently need government action to make this a reality. And while the Government may point to the £50m Move On Fund detailed in the strategy, this is not new money. Without more investment in homes, the number of homeless people will continue to rise regardless.

With this in mind, our role is clear – we must hold the Government to account on its commitments to review the Rough Sleeping Strategy, to develop a new strategy on homelessness more widely, and to consult people with lived experience as part of this process. We must make sure the work of the advisory panel is not lost and that this important first step is followed by a second and a third, that are bigger and bolder.

And we must ensure that supply and welfare become integral in the conversation about how we end rough sleeping for good.

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