HC Deb 08 December 1993 vol 234 cc259-60W
Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with organisations that look after homeless people In(a) London and (b) other major cities of the United Kingdom as to what help his Department will be giving to such organisations during the Christmas and new year period; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young

As part of the Government's rough sleepers initiative, £1.5 million has been allocated to fund seven cold weather shelters in central London this winter. These will provide around 360 bed spaces, open from 1 December to 31 March, for people who would otherwise spend the winter months sleeping on the streets of the capital. A further 280 beds are also available at short notice in the event of particularly severe weather. My officials have been in regular contact with the voluntary sector since July to plan this and to ensure that the programme proceeds smoothly.

In England—the extent of the Department of the Environment's remit-outside central London, housing responsibility for all homeless people properly rests with local authorities, who should include within their housing strategies measures to meet the accommodation needs of people sleeping rough on the streets. To complement these measures the Department is paying £6.45 million in grants this year to over 170 projects around the country run by voluntary organisations to prevent and relieve homelessness.

Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the number of elderly homeless people at risk in central London who do not have access to suitable accommodation.

Sir George Young

The most recent count, undertaken by the voluntary sector in June 1993, found nearly 360 people sleeping rough in central London, of whom about 40 were believed to be aged over 60. Most of these older rough sleepers had been on the streets for at least five years. They will have received several offers of accommodation and resettlement support under the Government's rough sleepers initiative in central London, which will continue for a further two years.