Charity concerns over cuts to homelessness funding

Meon Valley Times Advertisement
Homeless man in sleeping bag

A Hampshire charity has expressed its concerns over the future loss of all funding for homelessness support, which will affect 900 people who are experiencing homelessness.

Under its savings proposal, currently under public consultation, to reduce and change the way services are delivered in Hampshire, the county council has proposed decommissioning its social inclusion funding and stopping its funding of all non-statutory homelessness support services.

The proposal would save around £2 million annually but it would have a knock-on effect on around 900 people experiencing homelessness in the Local Authority.

In the region, Two Saints, a charity that provides homes and specialist support to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, and Southampton, is one of the three providers of homelessness accommodation that currently receive funding from Hampshire County Council.

Despite understanding the council’s financial position and the need to balance the budget, Richard Gammage, chief executive of Two Saints, expressed concerns over the county council proposal and the risk for those 900 people that could end up rough sleeping in Hampshire.

Chief executive Richard Gammage said: “From April 2025, if approved, they [HCC] will remove all funding for homelessness support from Hampshire, all funding, not a percentage of it, but every bit of support.

“The impact across Hampshire is on about 900 people in any given year who access the bed space. There are 172 individuals on any given night who are in bed spaces that we provide across Hampshire, and those bed spaces will all go. Effectively, about 900 additional people will end up rough sleeping in Hampshire in any given year, starting from April 2025.”

Currently, HCC funds 172 bed spaces for people experiencing homelessness across Hampshire, community support programmes, and an Outreach and In-Reach Resettlement Service in Basingstoke.

If the proposal goes ahead, Mr Gammage indicated that they would be “unable” to provide those bed spaces and the support they offer.

Mr Gammage added: “So they will end up being the responsibility of the local districts who will be facing more rough sleeping in their areas.

“We know, for example, that on any given night, we house between 44 and 45 individuals in Andover. Those individuals will be rough sleeping in Andover and others in Fareham, Gosport, Petersfield, and Aldershot.”

Between April and June 2023, 2,020 households across Hampshire were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness and owed a homeless duty by district councils—a 19 percent increase compared to April—June 2022.

The latest annual rough sleeper count found rough sleeping in Hampshire increased by 28 percent, indicating that rough sleeping is rising in the county faster than the national average.

Bearing in mind the increase, Two Saints indicated that the measure “can only worsen things” since people they support either have health issues, drug addiction, or physical health issues and are more likely to access accident emergency services due to its vulnerability, which will put more pressure on all services.

Mr Gammage said: “Inevitably, this measure will impact everybody in society because rough sleepers will put more demands upon A&E, the NHS, mental health services, other charities, the police, the criminal justice system, and the communities that they will be living in.

“Some people sadly die in our services; well, they won’t be dying in our services with the roof over their heads. They’ll be dying on the streets of Hampshire, and that’s just to start the reality.”

Two Saints offers services in 85 buildings in Hampshire. The proposal would impact ten of them in Petersfield, Havant, Eastleigh, Basingstoke, Andover, Fareham and Gosport.

Mr Gammage said that despite the proposal being planned for the 2025/26 budget, they have to end leases for some buildings before that period. By doing so, people will need to find other alternatives, such as returning to rough sleeping “around the back of the bins.”

“We think we will feel the impact from this September. So the moment that the council signs off on this proposal, and that will be in September, then the impact will be felt pretty quickly by people living in Hampshire”, the chief executive said.

With the HCC public consultation to gather residents’ views closing on March 31, which includes the withdrawal of the homelessness funding, Mr Gammage urged residents to submit their views.

Mr Gammage said: “I don’t think anybody wants to see homelessness on the streets. I think most people in the Heart of Hearts care about the most vulnerable in society and recognise that they deserve our support.

“This is not a lifestyle choice; this is very much the most vulnerable people in society who deserve our support.

“I hope we can encourage as many people as possible in Hampshire to respond to the county council’s requests for feedback. It is really important, and if they’ve got a moment to focus on the impact of homelessness, that would be really welcome.

“Then we have to trust in the County Council to form the best possible judgement. But we have no magic wand, and ultimately, if they remove all this funding, then services will close, buildings will close, and hundreds more people will be homeless across Hampshire.”

The county council indicated that “difficult decisions” must be made, and they must prioritise statutory services “only”.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “For a long time now, we’ve been very clear about the huge budget pressures facing the County Council from April 2025 onwards and, like many local authorities nationally, our budgets are under considerable pressure from rising costs and growing demand in key areas such as social care for vulnerable children and adults.

“To help close the budget gap, we therefore have some difficult decisions to make around these, and other savings proposals, as we move towards prioritising the delivery of statutory services only. Homelessness support is the responsibility of local housing authorities – in Hampshire, this is the district and borough councils. No decisions have yet been made on this option, or any of the other 12 that are featured in our Future Services Consultation, which remains open for people to have their say, up until March 31.

“In the meantime, it is important to emphasise that irrespective of the any final decisions that are made, we will continue to meet all our social care responsibilities relating to people experiencing homelessness.”

Here, you can submit your views on the HCC public consultation.

Meon Valley Times Advertisement