Ministers unveil funding to help homeless with drug and alcohol problems


Rough sleepers across England will receive extra support to help them recover from drug and alcohol misuse, ministers have announced,

More than 40 areas across England will receive funds from a £23 million pot designed to assist those with drug and alcohol addictions to access treatment to ditch their habits once and for all.

The programme will be boosted by a further £52 million in 2021/22, the Ministry of Housing has confirmed.

It comes as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to tackle the looming crisis in rough sleeping this Christmas and keep his pledge to end homelessness for good.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Labour leader has urged the Government to work with councils and mayors to ensure rough sleepers have access to Covid-secure winter shelter, warning that the country is at “the tip of an iceberg” of poverty and destitution after the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who were homeless but are being provided with emergency accommodation during the Covid crisis as part of the Government’s Everyone In programme will be eligible for support, along with people who are currently sleeping on the country’s streets.

The funding, which is being issued in partnership with the Department for Health and Social Care and managed by Public Health England, will enable those without a roof over their heads to access drug and alcohol treatment, including detox and rehabilitation services.

This will be alongside other support, such as access to mental health and substance dependence workers.

Over the past year alone, 61% of those sleeping rough in London said they needed help with addiction problems, with 39% reporting alcohol misuse and the same proportion reporting drug problems, according to officials.

Housing minister Kelly Tolhurst: “We know that one of the main issues facing those sleeping rough, or at risk of homelessness, is misuse of drugs or alcohol and what a crippling effect these substances have on people’s lives.

“While our Everyone In campaign has helped to protect thousands of lives, we still need to work hard to break the cycle of rough sleeping for good.

“This funding will provide thousands of vulnerable people with the support they need to get on the road to recovery to rebuild their lives away from the streets for good.”

Steve Douglas, chief executive of St Mungo’s homeless charity, said: “We are pleased that the Government is targeting funding to tackle this urgent issue alongside other efforts to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets.”

Ms Tolhurst also confirmed an initial £10 million of funding for 19 areas, plus the Greater London Authority, under the Government’s £15 million Protect Programme.

It is set to provide accommodation for rough sleepers during the pandemic in areas that require extra support during the restrictions and throughout winter.

The Government said the newly-announced money was set to take spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year to more than £700 million, with the Everyone In campaign helping to protect thousands of lives during the Covid-19 outbreak by housing rough sleepers in safe accommodation.