Kelly Pledges Millions To Fight Homelessness

Ruth Kelly has vowed to eradicate the practice of housing homeless teenagers in bed and breakfast hostels by 2010. The communities secretary described the provision of temporary accommodation for 16- and 17-year-olds as “unacceptable for a civilised society”, and promised extra funding to improve the care offered by local authorities. Currently many teenagers who are forced out of home are put up in adult hostels. They are often on their own, and are offered little care or support.

Speaking on the 40th anniversary of Cathy Come Home, the TV drama which scorched the issue of youth homelessness on the public consciousness, she said that the Government had “turned the tide” on homelessness but now needed to address its fundamental causes. “Cathy has come in, off the street,” she said. “But now we must meet new challenges and deal with the changing nature of homelessness.”

Ms Kelly said she had asked councils to set up lodgings centres that will provide guidance and support, as well as shelter, for young people thrown out by their parents. These centres should be “places of change”, rather than just “a roof over your head”, she said. And she pledged the Government to spending £74 million on tackling homelessness next year, a 12 per cent increase on last year. “We need to end the ‘revolving door’ of homelessness and help people use time spent in hostels for training and acquiring new skills,” she added.

There are now 500 rough-sleepers in Britain, down from 1,800 eight years ago.

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, an umbrella group for organisations working with homeless people, welcomed today’s announcement, “providing programmes of positive activities including skills and learning”.

But Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat housing spokesman, said that Labour’s policies were to blame for the high number of people living in temporary

accommodation. “The fact that more than half a million people are still living in squats, hostels, on friend’s floors and in temporary accommodation is a

damning indictment of this Government,” he said. “The Government has allowed 450,000 council homes to be sold off since 1997 with only 140,000 new social

homes being built.”