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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 17:12 GMT
The czar who 'shoots from the hip'
Louse Casey
Louise Casey: "Committed to the job"
Homelessness czar Louise Casey is known for her tough approach to cutting the number of rough sleepers in the UK.

When the blunt-speaking official was appointed it was commented that the government was either being very brave or very stupid.

And when, within months of taking up the post, she walked straight into controversy by attacking homeless charities, many critics were quick to assume the latter.

She was quoted as saying many charities were "perpetuating homelessness" by giving free handouts to people on the streets, comments which sparked considerable outrage.

Swift rise

Much of the criticism focused on her age - with critics suggesting after her appointment at 33 that she had had a swift rise to prominence.

But, in the 12 years prior to her appointment, she has gained extensive experience working within the social sector.

She became involved with the homeless early in her career when, as an employee of the former Department of Health and Social Security she dealt with benefit payments to homeless people.

Later she became co-ordinator of the St Mungo Association, managing the provision of services to single, homeless men.

This was followed by a directorship, taking charge of the Homeless Network, co-ordinating services to rough sleepers in central London.

But it was during her time spent as the deputy director of homeless charity Shelter that Ms Casey made her mark.

Ambitious reputation

Joining in 1992, she quickly gained a reputation as an ambitious, pragmatic worker who got results.

According to Shelter spokeswoman Rachel O'Brien, Ms Casey played a key role in re-shaping the charity, pushing through a number of innovations including Shelterline, a 24-hour phone help service.

"She's blunt, she says what she thinks and she shoots from the hip," Ms O'Brien told BBC News Online.

Louise Casey
Wide experience of homeless issues
"People tell her there are obstacles and she will tell them, 'I don't want to hear about obstacles, I want to hear what the problems are and I want to hear the solutions'.

"She doesn't believe in sacred cows, she just wants to know how to get from A to B."

At Shelter, her department quickly doubled in size as, under her supervision, the level of service provided by the charity was dramatically increased.

Alongside her professional work, Ms Casey also works as a Justice of the Peace, which says Ms O'Brien, shows her commitment to her cause.

"She was incredibly committed to Shelter and will be equally so to her new job. She's got a really deep sense of outrage and it is very genuine.

There aren't many people who can combine the kind of oomph she's got with that level of experience

Shelter's Rachel O'Brien
"There is a deep down anger about what she sees, but she is incredibly personable.

"She has already achieved a great deal and if anyone can do the job it's her. There aren't many people who can combine the kind of oomph she's got with that level of experience."

According to one report, Ms Casey narrowly escaped one experience which would have given her an apt qualification for her present task.

She revealed that, as a youngster in Portsmouth she wanted to leave home and gain independence, eventually landing a job in a holiday camp.

"If I had not found this residential job on Hayling Island, I don't know what I would have done," she is reported to have said.

See also:

15 Dec 99 | UK
Attack on homelessness
14 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair pledge to reduce rough sleeping
15 Nov 99 | UK
The homelessness debate
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