The government has announced extra funding to tackle rough sleeping, as well as a review into the wider causes, to be led by Louise Casey, a senior official with a background in homelessness and social welfare.
The twin announcement, including an extra £236m in funding to help people off the streets, comes a day before the publication of annual figures on the problem. Boris Johnson is due to visit a homelessness charity on Thursday.
The money will go towards accommodation for up to 6,000 people who are already sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness based on the so-called housing first model, an idea developed in the US which offers supported, secure accommodation to people who might have complex needs.
It will create new housing through refurbishments or leasing new private-rented sector properties, which will be set aside for those affected by rough sleeping.
The review into rough sleeping will be led by Casey, who previously headed the homelessness charity Shelter and in government has led on antisocial behaviour and troubled families. She was also the first independent commissioner for victims of crime.
Her review will be tasked with providing extra advice to help ministers meet a target of eliminating rough sleeping within the current parliament.
In another appointment, the Gravesham MP Adam Holloway has been made parliamentary private secretary to Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, with a specific brief of rough sleeping.
Charities working with homeless people said the moves were welcome, but warned that they had to come as part of an integrated approach to the housing crisis.
Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said most people were “tipped into homelessness simply because there are not enough affordable, safe, and secure homes in this country”.
She said: “Emergency measures to get people off the streets quickly and housing first pilots can only go so far, if you don’t have the stable homes to back them up.”
Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said it was good to focus new funding on rough sleeping. He added: “But ultimately, we need this money to translate into real homes rather than paying to keep people homeless in hostels and night shelters.”
The last official annual statistics said there was a 2% fall in rough sleeping numbers in England in 2018. However, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, said the figures should be treated with caution as it was not known how an emergency funding scheme for the worst-affected areas might have affected the data.
Separate statistics for London last year showed an 18% rise in the number of rough sleepers, with 8,855 people recorded as bedding down on the capital’s streets.
Johnson said: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all.
“We must tackle the scourge of rough sleeping urgently, and I will not stop until the thousands of people in this situation are helped off the streets and their lives have been rebuilt.”
Jenrick said there was a “moral obligation to support the most vulnerable in society”.
He said: “We will be bringing together housing, addiction, mental health and the criminal justice system as never before to tackle this social ill from every angle. The coordinated effort that we will now pursue, beginning with this review, builds on the progress we have made in recent years, reducing the number of people sleeping on the streets.”