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'STREETS TSAR' TO HELP TACKLE HOMELESSNESS

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Prime minister Tony Blair is to announce a scheme tomorrow with the aim of cutting the number of homeless people on...
Prime minister Tony Blair is to announce a scheme tomorrow with the aim of cutting the number of homeless people on the streets of London by a third in three years, reports The Guardian (p9).

Other cities, including Birmingham, Oxford, Manchester, Cambridge, Brighton and Bristol will each have a specialist to spearhead similar schemes.

A 'streets tsar' will head a new body, to be in place by next March, to co-ordinate the fight against homelessness in London and will oversee an audit of hostel places.

Outside London, the specialist in each town or city will bring together relevant local agencies. Funds for the project will be announced as part of the government's spending review.

The Independent on Sunday (p1) reported that the government is spending£40,000 per person per year trying to keep people off the streets.

The new plan has been devised by the social exclusion unit, set up by the government last May. It aims to cut homelessness by a third in three years. It refelects growing concern both at the social

costs of homelessness and a belief that the money is not being used effectively. With several agencies deployed to help the 10,000 people who will, at one time or another, sleep rough in a year, the total

cost averages£40,000 a person and is£52,000 per annum for the mentally ill.

The 'homelessness tsar' will co-ordinate London's efforts, including housing and health. If the report's proposals are implemented the capital will have a new body with an integrated budget.

Several other cities will appoint an individual from the local authority to tackle rough sleeping and housing minister Hilary Armstrong will head an inter-departmental group monitoring the issue.

Housing charity Shelter estimates that on any given night 2,000 people sleep rough in England and a further 150 in Scotland.

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