Sheffield MPs are urging the Government to protect funding for homeless shelters after seeing first hand the vital work being done to support rough sleepers in the city.
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh and Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said Government plans to change the way supported housing is funded could make it more difficult for facilities like The Salvation Army’s Charter Row Lifehouse centre to continue operating.
The two Labour politicians vowed to lobby ministers to protect funding for centres such as this after hearing about the vital service they provide to help young men get off the streets and live a better way of life.
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Ms Haigh, who is also shadow policing minister, said: “The Salvation Army provides vital support services in Sheffield, helping get people back on their feet and doing excellent work in preventing them from having to sleep on the streets and the associated antisocial responses people face when left vulnerable in the open air.
"It's worrying to see how the planned changes the Government is proposing to the current funding system for supported housing would see the funding for sites like this become more precarious, and I’ll keep challenging them on their proposals.”
The Government intends to give councils funding responsibility for short-term supported housing schemes, like the Charter Row Lifehouse, through ring-fenced grants and is currently consulting on its plans.
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But short-term supported housing providers have warned that this approach could result in a postcode lottery where some councils are keener to fund schemes than others.
Staff at the Charter Row Lifehouse provide tailored support for up to 55 vulnerable men who have ended up living on the streets. This includes helping them to pay their rent to stay at the facility and supporting them to find employment.
There is also a community allotment residents are encouraged to get involved with that promotes healthy eating and is designed to help boost self-esteem.
Major Gillian Coates, assistant regional homelessness services manager for the north east, said: “We have been able to demonstrate to Louise and Paul the added value that services such as Charter Row provides to people when they are at their most vulnerable. We have also raised with them the uncertainties services such as ours face when it comes to the future sustainability of supported housing funding.
“The Salvation Army is strongly committed to supporting current and future residents and we will do everything we can to continue providing the support that we know people want and need. However, if the Government’s current proposal is introduced as is, then our residents and services will be exposed to increasing levels of risk and uncertainty.
“We’re seeking a solution which offers vulnerable homeless residents and their communities the strongest possible guarantee that local services will remain operational and accessible under the new system.”
Richard descended into alcoholism and ended up back on the streets drinking 18 cans of lager a day.
The 53-year-old was in a state of despair and believes one more winter on the streets would have killed him.
He was referred to Charter Row’s high needs service in September 2017.
And after receiving months of support, he got his drinking down to two alcohol-free cans a day.
He has now got his life back on track and earlier this year moved out of the centre and into his own accommodation.
Richard told the MPs: “One more winter on the street would’ve killed me.
“I don’t like gardening but got involved in the allotment project because my specialist support workers encouraged me. It kept my mind occupied.
"I keep in touch with Mark, one of my support workers. If I tell him I can’t do something, he tells me ‘Have a cup of tea, take a deep breath, you can do this.’
“The Salvation Army staff were my backbone. I used to keep them on their toes.
"I’m living in my own place now and decorating it all myself – most of time is taken up with painting but I’d like to come back and volunteer.
"I’ve been told to come back if ever I need support or a cup of tea. The staff are like my family.”