Cuts 'will put 800 homeless people out on the streets'
HOUSING charities have warned hundreds of homeless people will end up on the streets following "disastrous" cuts in the amount of financial help they get from Derby City Council.
They estimate up to 800 people may end up without a bed to sleep in over the course of a year after their budgets for hostels, refuges, and shelters, were cut by about £2 million.
One of the hostels which will close, unless a public appeal for donations is successful, is run by the Padley Group, in Becket Street, Derby.
Padley Group chairman Pat Zadora, a member of the city's Hostel Liaison Group, said the cuts were "disastrous" for the city.
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She said: "We will see more people rough-sleeping, an increase in petty thefts, assaults and street drinking. People with alcohol and drug issues will be more likely to reach a point of crisis."
Councillor Ranjit Banwait, the Labour-run city council's deputy leader, said: "The cuts being made to our budget by central government are so draconian that, although we will do everything we can to minimise the impact on vulnerable people, they will be affected.
"We could cut Derby Live, we could cut children's centres, we could cut care homes, or stop repairing pavements. We feel we have made the right decisions given the resources we've got."
Mrs Zadora said: "It would cost the council £2 million to keep these beds available but their value to the city is much greater."
The city's homeless have also condemned the cuts, with some claiming they would still be on the streets, or in hospital, if hostel support was not there.
Bryn Roberts, 42, who is in the 10-bed Padley Centre hostel having been homeless since September last year, said he would have needed hospital treatment if a bed was not available.
Mr Roberts said: "I was evicted from my home because I was having problems with housing benefits. I'd never been homeless before.
"I've got asthma and psoriasis, which causes my skin to flake away and bleed, and if I'd been out in the snow over the winter I'd have ended up in hospital."
The stopping of the grants forms part of the council's plans to save £62 million over the next three years.
The authority says it is working with the bed providers on contingency plans.
It will "bolster" advice and information services and is to use Government funding to pay for a new team which will help rough-sleepers. And it says people who have "ongoing health and social care needs requiring a social worker will continue to be supported."
The authority's figures show its "housing-related support" spending, including the money for hostels, refuges, and shelters, will drop from £6,569,000 in this financial year, to £3,765,000 in 2013-14 and to £1,765,000 in 2014-15. This is a drop of more than 73% over that period.
Council figures show that the number of "short-term accommodation" beds provided by the authority and charities in the city will fall from the current 557 total, to 287 in April.
Mrs Zadora said the average stay in one of the affected beds was four months and that demand meant they were always used.
She said this meant about 800 people could be "without a bed to sleep in" because of the reduction.
She said people shouldn't think they could never be affected by the issue, especially during the economic downturn.
Mrs Zadora said: "Anybody could be made redundant and become homeless in a matter of months.
"The streets are a difficult place to be and people's situation can quickly deteriorate as they drink to numb themselves, especially from the cold. Then you might start thinking [the drug] 'crack' works faster."
A spokesman for another provider of beds for the homeless in Derby, the YMCA, said: "It is reasonable to say we are concerned that the need will be far greater than the resources available."
Derby charity Action Housing and Support is another losing its grant because of the cut in housing-related support services cash.
Its director of client support services, Helen Greig, said: "In truth, the number of people who could be made homeless by these cuts is higher than 800 as the services the money supported was for about 4,000 [people] at any one time. A large proportion of the work is helping people stay in existing tenancies."
Kirsty Everson, who commissions organisations to carry out work for the city council, said the authority was still working with the hostel bed providers on "contingency plans".
She said: "The council will bolster its advice and information services and encourage people to access the private sector for housing if they are homeless and do not require or qualify for council assistance.
"People who have ongoing health and social care needs requiring a social worker will continue to be supported.
"In addition, in partnership with a local provider we have recently been awarded funding from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to recruit a team of outreach workers to engage with people who are rough-sleeping to bring them into relevant services and off the street.
"The council also provides severe weather provision for people who are sleeping on the streets or rough sleeping from December 1 until March 31. This provision provides an emergency service to rough sleepers to access in the severe weather, which is defined as when the temperature drops below 1 degree celsius for three consecutive nights."
How to help the homeless
Padley Homeless Hostel has launched a campaign to save its 10-bed shelter for the homeless.
It wants to find 4,000 people to donate £2 a month so that enough money can be raised to keep the Becket Street site open.
Padley Group chairman Pat Zadora said: "People who are helped by a short stay at our hostel and are then moved on to sustainable tenancies will have nowhere to go other than the streets of Derby. Their issues will go unattended and many will reach crisis point and become a major drain on health, social services, police, and the criminal justice system."
People can find more details about becoming one of the "Padley 4,000" by calling Derby 774480, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
They can pick up forms for setting up the £2-a-month donation from the Padley Shop, Sadler Gate, the homeless centre itself or the Padley Development Centre, in Rutland Street.