Rough sleeping will increase if charity’s funding is cut

John Holmstrom, chief executive of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects
John Holmstrom, chief executive of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects

Rough sleeping will increase in Worthing and Littlehampton if a charity’s funding is cut by the county council, the organisation has warned.

The Tory-led West Sussex County Council is considering ending housing support funding worth hundreds of thousands of pounds from April 2019.

As the authority says the grants are discretionary, the cabinet member responsible is set to look at starting a process which could lead to a number of contracts with charities being terminated.

Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, which employs 100 staff and has 300 volunteers, is one of the organisations that would be affected.

John Holmstrom, the charity’s chief executive, said they were ‘shocked and dismayed’ by the news.

He explained how the county council grant allows them to provide high-support beds for people on the first stage out of homelessness, some of which would have to be cut. This money also helps them leverage in other sources of funding, which the charity would also lose.

Mr Holmstrom said: “There would be a very serious increase in rough sleeping at a time when we have helped it go down.”

He described being fearful for the charity’s clients and staff and called for a ‘proper pause for thought’ by the county council.

He said: “It’s not just having a room, we can’t take somebody in who has got complex needs without adequate staff. What’s important is we have skilled staff to create programmes for our residents.”

Building trust with clients was ‘key’ to help challenging individuals break the cycle.

The authority is also proposing to cut the level of Local Assistance Network Funding, support for households in crisis which Worthing Churches helps distribute across Worthing, Adur and Littlehampton.

This can include help with heating or providing furniture such as beds, cookers or fridges.

Mr Holmstrom added: “We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other charities and district and borough councils to defend these functions.”

Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, said: “The stark reality is we simply do not have the money to continue delivering the services we currently deliver in the same way and to the same level. We have come to the point that we need to make some difficult and necessary choices and this is the first reluctant step in this budget process.

“Locally there is really good work happening and we are committed to working in creative, innovative ways including collaborative working with partners to do as much as we can to mitigate the impact of these decisions and in doing so limit the effect on residents.

“The publication of the forward plan is the first step in the democratic process for our savings programme. No decision has been taken, these decisions are really important to making sure we meet the financial challenges we face. In order to make these decisions there is a full and thorough decision making process to go through. For many of these decisions that will include formal consultation with those most affected.

“Any changes we make we will do with the full understanding of the impact that has and the support we need to put in place to make sure we mitigate the impact for all of our communities.”

Beccy Cooper, leader of the Labour group at Worthing Borough Council, said: “These cuts will have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable people in Worthing and across the county

“This funding provides the safety net for people who have reached a crisis point in their lives – people who have become homeless, or who face homelessness, those who are the victims of domestic violence, those who because of mental issues or problems of drug or alcohol dependency are unable to maintain stability in their lives.

“This funding provides the one thing that can bring people back from a downward spiral by putting a roof over their head and the stability of somewhere to live and access to the help to get their lives back on track.

“It just doesn’t make economic sense either. It will inevitably mean more calls on those who will have to pick up the pieces – the police, the ambulance service, our hospitals, and social services.

“There is still time for the county council to pull back from the brink and think again about these cuts. We will be fighting the proposal every step of the way over the next month to make sure they do.”

James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group at County Hall, added: “These cuts fly in the face of the council’s avowed policies of protecting the vulnerable in our communities, and are merely cynical cash saving measures, and have no place in a civilised and caring society.

“They are part of a much wider programme of cuts to make up the shortfalls caused by the drastic reduction in the cash given by central government for local council services. It is time for the public and the council to stand up and tell central government that austerity has gone too far, and is severely eroding local Services to the elderly, young people, and vulnerable in our communities.”

Thousands have already rallied behind Crawley Open House, which could also lose funding, while the YMCA DownsLink Group, which provides supported housing services to homeless young people in Worthing, Crawley, Horsham and Burgess Hill, has warned that if the council ended all financial support it would lead to the closure of 206 homes for vulnerable young people.

For more information about Worthing Churches Homeless Projects visit the charity’s website