Homeless warning over welfare changes
Changes to housing benefit could mean homeless people are turned away from over-stretched shelters this winter.
Homeless Link, an umbrella group for groups working with the homeless, said the results of a survey of service providers show they are facing a challenging winter.
Last year one third of shelters were funded to some extent by housing benefit, but there remains a great deal of uncertainty over whether these payments will continue once Universal Credit is launched.
More shelters report being unable to provide the service they want with available funding.
Last winter emergency homeless shelters played a vital role in preventing the deaths of many rough sleepers.
A survey of 126 services revealed that 4,863 people sought shelter from the cold during the last winter, one quarter of whom had not approached services for help before.
10% of those who used shelters were destitute people from abroad who, because of their immigration status, had no entitlement to welfare benefits.
The number of people rough sleeping having gone up by 31% in the past two years.
The Homeless Linksurvey indicates that more areas provided winter-long shelter last year and stayed open for longer, on average six months, because of the prolonged cold snap.
Homeless Link’s Chief Executive, Rick Henderson, said:
“It’s a simple fact – cold weather shelters save lives. With a continued trend towards more severe winters anything that threatens the work of shelters should concern us all.
“National and local government must ensure that the resources are in place to fund their essential work and that welfare reform does not put added pressure on already stretched services.
“We appeal to areas to start planning now for how they will ideally provide winter long shelter and use the opportunity to ensure that individuals do not end up back on the streets.”
Homeless Link is calling on councils and services to begin planning emergency winter provision now and wants the government to clarify whether winter shelters will be able to continue to be funded once universal credit is introduced.
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