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Tuesday, 26 December, 2000, 11:51 GMT
Homelessness 'down by a third'
rough sleepers
The number of homeless people has decreased by a third
The number of rough sleepers on the streets of British cities has declined by a third in the last year, according to a leading charity.

Chris Holmes, the director of Shelter, said the numbers have fallen to 1,200 throughout Britain and he praised the Government for taking "really encouraging steps".

He told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "Over the last year, through the rough sleepers' strategy and the work of voluntary agencies, the number of rough sleepers has been reduced by about a third."

hostel
Local authorities will be obliged to provide hostels
The new figures would suggest that the Government's Rough Sleepers Unit is on target to reduce the number of homeless on the streets of Britain by two-thirds by the end of 2002.

The Rough Sleepers Unit was set up in April 1999 with a budget of 200m.

The government introduced legislation in the Queen's Speech which includes a wide range of measures to help the homeless.

Local authorities will have a legal obligation to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless, the right to housing will now extend to teenagers between 16 and 18 and the bill provides for a more co-ordinated approach between local authorities and homeless charities.

Mr Holmes said: "At last, the Government is fulfilling a new homeless bill. It is committed to restoring the duty of long term accommodation for homeless families.


Rough sleepers face public prejudice and violence
"Even more important in the long run, the Government has said that priority must be given to some of those most vulnerable - young people coming out of care and people coming out of prison."

Mr Holmes also paid tribute to the many volunteers who offer their own time and money to helping those without a home, particularly at Christmas time.

"It has not come by ministerial diktat, it has come by partnership - the voluntary agencies working with homeless people on the streets, building relationships and self-confidence."

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