‘Law change’ needed to tackle rough sleeping

Charity calls on government to reprioritise rough sleepers to enable local authorities to help them, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A Salvation Army branch
The Edmonton branch of Salvation Army

The government needs to change the law to achieve its aim of ending rough sleeping, The Salvation Army has said.

The charity is calling on ministers to change housing legislation, to mean that all rough sleepers are deemed as being in ‘priority need’ of accommodation from their local council.

Councils currently have a duty to find accommodation for people who are homeless, but only if they are in ‘priority need’ – a category which includes a limited set of circumstances, such as if the homeless person has dependent children with them.

The Salvation Army’s call came as the latest data revealed that some 3,272 people were seen rough sleeping in London in April to June of this year – a rise of 9%, compared with the same three-month period last year.

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Nick Redmore, director of the charity’s homelessness services unit, said: “If you don’t have a roof over your head then it stands to reason that you are in desperate need of housing.

“So, it’s unbelievable that people living on the streets without proper shelter or sanitation and at high risk of illness and injury are not deemed a priority by legislation and being denied council accommodation.”

A spokeswoman at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities responded: “Rough sleeping remains well below pre-pandemic levels both nationally and in London, which reflects the progress made during the pandemic, but we know there is more to do.

“That’s why we have committed £2billion to support our work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. This includes the Rough Sleeping Initiative 2022-25, which is providing up to £500m over three years, enabling councils to deliver local, tailored rough sleeping services to give those in need the best chance of a safe and sustainable life off the streets.”

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