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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 08:04 GMT

UK: Scotland

Homeless initiatives receive £20m boost

Around 11,000 people sleep rough in Scotland in any one year

Scotland's Housing Minister Wendy Alexander announces plans to spend £20m to eradicate the problem of people sleeping rough.

On Wednesday she pledged that by 2003 no one need find themselves homeless and on Scotland's streets.

[ image: Wendy Alexander:
Wendy Alexander: "Radical shift"
Estimates have put the number of people sleeping rough in a typical year in Scotland at 11,000.

Armed with new research into the problem, the executive has decided to change the focus of its spending.

Instead of funding large hostels in Glasgow, which has two with 250 beds, the emphasis will instead be on smaller units and providing help for residents.

Ms Alexander fears that hostels are simply unsuitable and that the street may actually be preferable to come people.

These proposals have proved difficult in the past because a third of rough sleepers are believed to have alcohol problems, the same proportion have drug problems and a quarter have difficulties with mental health.

City problems

The minister recognised that rural communities are affected just like the cities - but that the problem in Glasgow is different from everywhere else.

But the financial boost did not bring wide-spread favour.

The Scottish National Party's Fiona Hyslop accused the government of recycling the announcement and failing to ensure that there would be adequate housing for people leaving hostels.

Bill Aitken for the Tories said the real problem was trying to ensure people who left hostels could survive outside.

Recently, Ms Alexander announced a consultation exercise over the way benefits are paid to young people sleeping rough.

Job seekers

They are eligible for housing benefit, income support and job seekers allowance paid by three different agencies.

The minister said she wanted to canvas opinion on whether to transfer responsibility for distributing this money, about £3m a year, to local authorities.

She estimated that one point of reference for all benefits would make it easier to help the most vulnerable and keep them off the streets.

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