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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 09:42 GMT


Campaign begins to clear homeless off streets

The scheme aims to get homeless people off the streets for good

An ambitious campaign to get homeless people off the street for good is being launched on Monday.

The Millennium Plus initiative gets underway two days after the UK's homelessness csar criticised charities which operate short-term policies to tackle rough sleepers such as doing soup runs.

Louise Casey reportedly said these actually encouraged people to stay on the streets.

However, a spokeswoman said her remarks had been taken out of context and that she had merely been supporting long-term initiatives to confront the homelessness problem.

The Millennium Plus initiative, run by charities Shelter and Crisis, has won government backing.

It seeks to get all rough sleepers off the streets for the New Year and keep them off.

They are calling on all hostels, housing providers and faith and community groups to make as many beds as possible available over the New Year.

The charities estimate that there are currently 2,000 people sleeping on the streets in England on any given night.

'Tough challenge'

The Millennium Plus, funded by the government's Rough Sleepers Unit and Nescafe, will run pilots in 13 towns and cities across England.

Initially, rough sleepers will be found a bed and will then be given housing advice and support.

Shaks Gosh, chief executive of Crisis, said: "We have set ourselves a tough challenge, but we believe it will be possible that no-one is forced to sleep on the streets at the turn of the new century.

"We then want to extend our reach to find long-term solutions for street homelessness."

Chris Holmes, director of Shelter, added that getting people off the streets for good involved "tackling complex needs stemming from family breakdown, domestic violence or drug and alcohol problems".

The government has announced plans to reduce street homelessness by two thirds by 2002 and its rough sleepers' unit is to publish recommendations on how to achieve this early next month.

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