Charity fears for Sunderland’s young homeless after funding cut

The Duke of Cambridge making chapatis in the kitchen of Centrepoint, Dundas Street, Sunderland, in 2013.
The Duke of Cambridge making chapatis in the kitchen of Centrepoint, Dundas Street, Sunderland, in 2013.

A charity which looks after Wearside’s young homeless says the loss of its funding will be “devastating” to those who rely on its help.

Centrepoint, which runs four hostels in the city, fears a decision by Sunderland City Council not to renew its contract could leave those most vulnerable without the support they need.

Councillor Graeme Miller.

Councillor Graeme Miller.

The charity has been informed by letter that its funding would not be renewed by the local authority when its current deal comes to an end.

However, council bosses have said a new service to prevent homelessness will be put in place once Centrepoint’s contract finishes.

Centrepoint has said the council is cutting its £3million budget for contracts for housing provision for those most in need.

It says this includes the £907,587 the charity receives each year which is used to run the four homes, including one for young parents, physical and mental health support, education, training, preparation for work and support to move on.

Vulnerable young people – including those exposed to the dangers of rough sleeping – will be left without the support they need, putting their futures at serious risk.

Martin Gill

It also offers floating, non-accommodation support, across the region.

Earlier this month, domestic violence charity Wearside Women in Need was told it will lose almost £600,000 from the council, although again civic bosses have insisted there will still be support for victims.

Centrepoint opened its first hostel in the city in 2009 and was awarded the contract for all the supported accommodation services for homeless young people in 2014.

That contract will finish on July 17.

The organisation’s patron is the Duke of Cambridge, who visited the city in 2013 to meet people who were helped by its base in Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth.

It says the funding cuts risk the closure of all accommodation services it runs for 18-to-25-year-olds who are not considered statutory homeless.

Its Freedom of Information requests show 660 young people aged 16 to 24 approached the council because they were homeless or at risk of homelessness in 2015/16.

Of these just 14 were accepted as statutory homeless.

Among the four hostels at risk of closure is a specialist service for homeless young people with dependent children.

Centrepoint has written to the council urging it to ensure that all of the young people affected by its decision secure appropriate support and accommodation before the contract ends.

It works with around 800 young people across the North East each year with a place to stay as well as “vital support” for young people to tackle the physical and mental heath problems caused by homelessness and help to find a job, training or a route back into education.

Despite the cuts, Centrepoint says it will continue to run a hostel for looked-after children and care leavers, and continue its prevention work with groups vulnerable to homelessness.

Martin Gill, director of housing and support at Centrepoint, said: “The impact of these cuts will be devastating.

“Vulnerable young people – including those exposed to the dangers of rough sleeping – will be left without the support they need, putting their futures at serious risk.

“Centrepoint won’t give up on helping homeless young people in Sunderland.

“But that task will be much more difficult once these cuts have been implemented.

“Sunderland City Council has shown a disappointing lack of planning.

“Local authority budgets are under pressure across the country, but their handling of this situation has heaped unnecessary anxiety on to vulnerable young people.

“We urge the council to rethink its decision.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, cabinet member 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 into people their own accommodation.”