Fears for Sunderland homeless as funding is cut

Swan Lodge residents concerns over Council funding. Resident Steven Bell (front).

Swan Lodge residents concerns over Council funding. Resident Steven Bell (front).

A service which keeps hundreds of people off Wearside’s streets is to lose vital funding.

Support for the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge will be withdrawn by Sunderland City Council from mid-July, leaving uncertainty over its future.

During the last nine months, the accommodation and activities centre in High Street East has handled 463 referrals through the council.

In addition to providing emergency beds to those with a local connection, it offers a sit-up service, where people can access a place to stay warm and nap during cold weather.

It also runs Lifehouse, which combines accommodation with education sessions.

Among those to have sought Swan Lodge’s help is Steven Bell, 44, who says he was “lost at sea” after a breakdown following a 20-year struggle after the death of his father and problems with drunk, drugs and violence.

Dad Steven, who is now working towards becoming a counsellor to help others, said: “A lot of the residents here need support. There are people here with a lot of complex needs, it’s not just about addictions.

“It will impact on the local services, health services, A&E, the police, the crisis teams, all of them are going to see a change and I don’t think they’ve really thought it through.

“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful.”

A spokesman for the charity said: “We have received notice that Supporting People funding will be withdrawn from July 13 and we are taking this seriously, looking at action to respond to this and we are continuing active dialogue with the council.”

The decision not to renew the contract to fund the Salvation Army’s work on Wearside is one of a series of changes following the council’s new budget plans.

Sunderland and South Tyneside councils have teamed up to successfully bid for £376,000 support from the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Homelessness Prevention Fund over the next two years, whicj will be used to help and support those people temporarily without a home who may face having to sleep rough as a result.

Part of that will be outreach work delivered through leading national homelessness charity Changing Lives, from its Sunderland base at the Old Orphanage Buildings in the East End.

Councillor Graeme Miller, Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, said: “A new service for helping the homeless and those at risk is being put in place as current contracts finish.

“This Housing First approach is in line with new and proven national and international practice, and on-going welfare reforms.

“It is about preventing homelessness with more support, helping to stop issues escalating, and moving away from hostel or refuge-based support towards getting people into their own accommodation.

“This includes tackling homelessness through the Changing Lives partnership with South Tyneside that was announced this week.”