*UK PM Blair Wants Homelessness "Reduced" FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 15 Dec 1999 22:49:40 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Associated Press - Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1999; 4:38 p.m. EST


LONDON -- Britain plans a new push to reduce the number of homeless people
living on the street.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, visiting a London homeless shelter Wednesday,
pledged to create 5,000 new beds for the homeless - with 550 of those in
central London, where the problem is greatest.

"We are of equal worth, and progress counts for little if it isn't shared,"
Blair said at St. Martin in the Fields day center. "There is no clearer, or
more depressing example of how much more we still need to do than the
people sleeping rough on the streets of our cities."

According to a government report, 1,600 people have nowhere to sleep each
night in England. More than 600 of those spend the night huddled in London
doorways and alleys, particularly in tourist areas, the report said.

"What we have got to do is focus our energies in getting to those people
and helping those people to come inside," Louise Casey, head of the Labor
Party government's homeless unit, told the British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The government set up the homeless unit in May with the goal of reducing by
two-thirds the numbers of homeless people by 2002.

Blair already has committed to spending $600 million to help children
leaving state care avoid homelessness, and $320 million to provide more
housing facilities.

The latest initiative was expected to focus on preventative measures and
encouraging greater community-wide efforts to tackle the problem.

Coinciding with the latest push, the government published a new report
Wednesday that calls for particular attention to be focused on vulnerable
teenagers and people leaving the armed forces in an effort to keep the
numbers of homeless from growing.

The opposition Conservative Party, however, accused the government of
failing to fulfill its pledges to combat homelessness.

"Ministers say they are putting more money toward helping the homeless, but
they are just recycling and reannouncing existing funds yet again," said
John Redwood, a Tory spokesman on the environment.


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