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The BBC's Asad Ahmad
"The number of rough sleepers is thought to be 1,600"
 real 56k

Head of Rough Sleepers Unit, Louise Casey
"No-one in this country wants human beings dying out on our streets"
 real 56k

Monday, 21 August, 2000, 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK
Rough sleepers pledge 'on target'
rough sleepers
The government is pledging to eradicate rough sleeping
The government says it is on target to reduce the number of people who sleep rough on the streets.

In its first annual progress report the Rough Sleepers Unit claims to have reduced the number of rough sleepers in England by 28%.

The RSU was set up in April 1999 with a budget of 200m to deliver Prime Minister Tony Blair's pledge to reduce the number of rough sleepers by two-thirds by 2002.

The solutions for rough sleepers addicted to drugs, alcohol or with mental health problems are not cheap

Louise Casey, Homelessness 'Tsar'
There are an estimated 1,600 rough sleepers in England alone and 635 of these sleep on the streets of London.

Director of the RSU, Louise Casey, said the job of helping those who slept on the streets was not easy.

"The solutions for rough sleepers addicted to drugs, alcohol or with mental health problems are not cheap or basic.

"The prime minister's target may be simple, but the solutions to deliver it are complicated."

She said there was "a huge amount more to do and many challenges ahead".

The rough sleepers must also face the challenge of helping themselves, she added.

Three-fold focus

The RSU progress report concentrates on three main areas:

  • Help for those sleeping rough

  • Rebuilding the lives of former rough sleepers

  • Preventing a new generation of rough sleepers

The RSU has established rolling shelters, a night centre for older rough sleepers, a "safe stop" for young people and contact assessment teams responsible for befriending rough sleepers.

In London 50 specialist workers have been funded to help rough sleepers with drug or alcohol addiction.

There was also concern to ensure better access to health care services.

louise casey
Louise Casey: "The solutions are neither cheap nor basic"
The RSU identified the need for better support for vulnerable young people and children leaving care and for offenders leaving prison.

It will help fund a support service to enable local authorities and prisons to develop their care-leaving services.

In partnership with the Ministry of Defence and the Army, the RSU is pilotting a resettlement advice centre at Catterick Garrison in Yorkshire for those leaving the armed forces.

The RSU says it is helping people move away from a life of rough sleeping by encouraging them into employment, education and training.

The progress report also highlights the problem of poorly co-ordinated soup and clothing runs, with a proliferation of help in some areas, and a paucity in others.

The Salvation Army has been funded to better co-ordinate such services.

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See also:

14 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Blair pledge to reduce rough sleeping
13 Dec 99 | UK
Homeless 'abused by public'
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