Homeless people’s lives in London risked by funding cuts, report finds

London local authorities have cut potentially life-saving mental health and addiction support for homeless people despite a rise in homelessness according to a new report[1] by The Salvation Army.

The church and charity are urging that at least half of Government funding to local authorities intended to tackle homelessness by 2024 is spent on support services, especially mental health and addiction treatment.

Separate figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) just released (29 July 2022) show there were 2,998 people sleeping rough in the Capital between April and June 2022 – an increase of 16 per cent in the last quarter compared with the same period last year. Of those 48 per cent were new rough sleepers.

Three quarters of those living on the streets have addictions and mental health problems, both major causes of homelessness, which can prevent them moving off the streets.

However, The Salvation Army has found that investment by local authorities in London on treatment and support for mental health and substance use problems has fallen over the last decade:

Funds for local mental health services have dropped by 40 per cent since 2012
The amount spent on local substance use treatment services fell 19 per cent since 2014.

Captain Daniel Holland, regional homelessness manager for London, said: “We know that local authorities see the value in support for addiction and mental health problems, but they can only stretch their money so far. If we are to end homelessness, local authorities must be helped to prioritize funding for services that address these root causes.

“Not only is there a worrying increase in the amount of people sleeping rough on London’s streets, but the majority are suffering with mental health issues and addictions, which shows they are not getting the support they need to help them tackle the root causes of their homelessness.

“Homelessness is a public health problem first and a housing problem second. Keeping someone off the streets is only partially solved by providing a place to stay.”

Danny Pettitt, 39, was homeless for two years before he got help at The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse hostel in North-West London. He is now tackling his addiction and has reconnected with his parents for the first time since he was a teenager.

Danny said: “My parents were good people but I got into trouble as a teenager and started selling drugs.

“I am bipolar and when I was low, I hit substances hard. Depression and drugs don’t mix. I was begging on the streets. Now I have support and am talking to counselors and other agencies about my options.

“I used to inject and I don’t now. I really got help.

“My own place is the next step for me. I’m hopeful about the future now. I didn’t feel hopeful before I came. I want my own place, but I’m happy here. You have a home, not a doorway.”

The Salvation Army’s report also recommends:

That mental health and addiction support is part of local authority homelessness strategies and that targets are set for the number of homeless people who are provided with mental health and addiction support alongside existing targets for accommodation.

Local authorities should produce statistics that can show the level of homelessness both locally and nationally and how much they are spending on supporting different groups of homeless people so funding can be appropriately allocated to different services.

To read The Salvation Army’s new report ‘Homelessness funding – what next?’ visit www.salvationarmy.org.uk.

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