Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Jane Hughes in New York
"Opinion polls show most New Yorkers oppose the new policies"
 real 28k

Monday, 13 December, 1999, 14:49 GMT
Arresting idea for the homeless

homeless Homeless in London; Charities want integrated help

UK homelessness czar Louise Casey is due to publish her strategy to get people sleeping rough off the streets.

The government plans to reduce the numbers of people sleeping on the streets by two-thirds by the year 2002.

It is estimated that there at least 2,000 people sleeping rough in England, about 600 of whom are in London.

new york New York is getting tough
While details of the government's measures are being kept under wraps, Minister for Social Exclusion Mo Mowlam said over the weekend that it would be providing "long-term specialist help" in its battle against homelessness.

She said: "As we move into the 21st century, it is a scandal that there are people who have to sleep rough in doorways because they have no other options. It's like something out of Dickens."

The government would be producing an integrated plan for the homeless, many of whom suffered mental and other problems.

She said: "The people who need our help most are the rough sleepers with complex problems, such as drugs, alcohol, or serious mental health problems.

Welcome from charities

"This targeted approach has never been done before. Working across departments we will provide the long-term specialist help people sleeping rough need for their problems.

"As well as helping people currently on the streets we must, for the first time ever, focus on preventing more vulnerable people ending up there."

Charities for the homeless have welcomed her words.

A spokeswoman for young persons' homeless charity Centrepoint, said: "It needs to be an integrated approach with a comprehensive and structured approach to helping young people in need."

A spokeswoman for homelessness charity Crisis said: "We would welcome an integrated approach, with more support services in hostels to enable people to help themselves."

Ms Casey caused controversy last month when she blamed homelessness charities who gave food and clothing handouts for making it too easy for those sleeping rough.

Mayor Giuliani: Pressing ahead despite court setback
But her views might have found some sympathy in New York where the mayor has launched a get-tough plan including arresting the homeless.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wants police to arrest people sleeping on the street and send them to a shelter.

He is also saying anyone in a hostel must work for their bed.

And if they are just an hour late for their job they will get evicted from the shelter and thrown back on the street.

Shelter is a basic human right
National Coalition for the Homeless
Mayor Giuliani's plans also call for homeless children to be put in foster care if their parents were kicked out of shelters for declining work.

The get-tough policies came after a woman was attacked by a man who was first labelled homeless, although after his arrest it turned out he had a home in an abandoned apartment in the Bronx.

The moves have angered many New Yorkers, 2,000 of whom turned out for a protest sleep-out.

A spokesman for the US National Coalition for the Homeless said: "We believe shelter is a basic human right.

"In a society like ours it is the people who fall through the cracks of a number of different systems including the welfare system, the mental health system, the housing market, the job market, that should have a basic safety-net shelter."

Four days before the new order was to come into affect two State Supreme Court judges ordered its suspension, but the city is determined to implement the new shelter rules early in the New Year.

The get-tough move in New York has been reflected elsewhere around the USA where it is estimated about 700,000 people sleep rough.

Tampa, Florida, has ordered that they not be served food in public parks.

And Tucson, Arizona, is considering privatising sidewalks so adjacent businesses can shoo them away.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
01 Dec 99 |  UK
Countryside's 'hidden' homelessness
15 Nov 99 |  UK
Kenny's day on the mean streets
26 Nov 99 |  UK
Seaside homeless win victory
15 Nov 99 |  UK
The homelessness debate
15 Nov 99 |  UK
Campaign begins to clear homeless off streets
14 Nov 99 |  UK
Charities 'promote homelessness'

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories