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Homelessness charities have welcomed the launch of a£145m government programme to help cut the number of people sl...
Homelessness charities have welcomed the launch of a£145m government programme to help cut the number of people sleeping rough, reports The Independent (p6).

Prime minister Tony Blair said: 'This is no cosmetic street cleaning but a real chance to deal with the problem once and for all.'

The launch of the programme coincided with the publication of a report by the Social Exclusion Unit into the issue of homelessness, which makes recommendations on how to tackle the problem.

Louise Casey, deputy director of the housing charity Shelter, said she was delighted Mr Blair had launched the report, but she warned against any plans which might force rough sleepers off the streets. 'Coercion doesn't work. People just hide in different doorways.'

Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of Crisis also welcomed the report, but criticised the suggestion that hostel places might only be offerred to rough sleepers if they signed up to the new deal job-finding package.

The report says once the new deal is up and running, the London body, with hostel providers 'might want to look at making participation in the programme a condition of the hostel place'.

Ms Ghosh said: 'I would question the wisdom of that. If you are homeless you really need to concentrate on getting your life sorted out, your relationship, and somewhere to live. Finding a job should only come after that.'

Housing minister Hilary Armstrong, who will chair a ministerial committee on rough sleeping, said new police powers were a possibility once sufficient accommodation had been provided. But she said such a prospect was 'distant'.

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