Questions over strategy to tackle rough sleeping in time for Olympics

By staff writers
November 24, 2008

People living and working with the homeless in central London have said it is hard to have faith in the Government's initiatives for rough sleepers, whilst it continues to deny the scale of the problem.

They also say it is 'unrealistic' to think that rough sleeping will be eradicated by the time of the Olympics in 2012, and questions the strategies that are being employed to do so.

In a statement the Simon Community welcomed the “Communities and Local Governments” recently published report “No-one left behind”, and its promise to inject “the biggest ever” amount of money, £200m, into homelessness.

It said it was also encouraged by the commitment the report makes to providing suitable accommodation for homeless people attempting to return to work.

"However, it is difficult to have faith in this strategy when the government continues to deny the scale of the problem - their latest headcount of rough sleepers fell far short of our own figure of 263 in central London alone" a statement said.

"Despite the report’s central assertion that rough-sleeping has been cut by two thirds, it makes no mention of the many harsh measures employed in order to attain these targets – namely ASBOs and police “move-ons”, or the negative affect that this has on the relationship between the homeless and the voluntary sector" the statement continued.

The Simon Community believes that the report’s wish to entirely eliminate rough-sleeping by 2012 is also unrealistic. It says it is impossible to legislate or provide a fail-safe net for those who might suddenly find themselves in a state of crisis, who - without adequate physical - and emotional support find themselves living on the street.

"We do not believe that it is a coincidence that the government plans to rid our streets of rough sleepers by 2012, the year the Olympics come to London" the statement said.

"At the most basic level, the Simon Community asks what is being done to combat the societal breakdown that has forced so many onto the streets?".

The Simon Community is an independent homelessness charity, founded in 1963 by Anton Wallich-Clifford. It is based on the principles of treating all equally regardless of circumstances, and lives and work with London's street homeless.

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