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UK admits it is not spending enough to tackle rough sleeping

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows a rough sleeper in London.

The British government has admitted it is lagging behind in its plans to end rough sleeping in England by 2027.

James Brokenshire, who serves as the housing and communities secretary in the government, said Monday that a £100-million fund that the government was supposed to dedicate to the problem of homelessness and rough sleeping was not fully available and nearly half of it had been “reprioritized” from existing budgets in his department.

“Half of that has already been committed to homelessness and rough sleeping. The other remaining half of this is money that is new to rough sleeping and homelessness, reflecting and recognizing the priorities and importance of taxes,” said Brokenshire in a radio interview.

Britain has seen a significant increase in the number of rough sleepers over the past years as many blame the crisis on the government’s spending cuts in welfare and social benefits. Some 4,751 people were on the streets across England last autumn, a 15-percent increase compared to 2016, according to official annual estimates by the government. The overall number of British rough sleepers has increased by more than 57 percent since 2011.

While announcing the government’s homelessness strategy on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said nobody should have to sleep rough in Britain, adding that her government would offer help to those with mental health problems and addictions, domestic abuse victims and those leaving prison.

The opposition Labour Party said the plan was “feeble” and lacked the “urgency” to tackle the rise in rough sleeping.

Previous reports had suggested that the government had underestimated the rough sleeping crisis. The Guardian newspaper said in a report on Friday that authorities always seek to downplay the acuteness of the homelessness and rough sleeping in Britain. It added that government agencies have strict rules to include people in their lists of rough sleepers and insist people living in encampments are not necessarily in the category.

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