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Exeter Charity warns of looming homelessness crisis

The number of people in Exeter forced to sleep on the streets or in vulnerable circumstances is set to soar, should major funding cuts proposed by Devon County Council go ahead.

Local charity, St Petrock’s, is warning of a homelessness crisis in the city on a scale not seen before.

Rough sleeping in Exeter doubled between 2021 and 2022, due to a range of factors, including service cuts, cost-of-living pressures and interest rate rises.

There are now typically around 30 people sleeping rough in and around the city, in addition to a very large number of people homeless but hidden from sight, such as in cars, sofa surfing or in insecure temporary housing, all of whom need support from services.

Devon County Council’s proposals could see the numbers of people in this perilous position double yet again, causing widespread suffering and putting huge pressure on existing resources.

Hundreds of people will be disadvantaged

The proposals, which were uploaded to the County Council’s website last week, would result in a complete axing of almost £1.5m of funding to projects supporting people at risk of homelessness. Its loss is set to disadvantage hundreds of people reliant on this vital professional support.

St Petrock’s is urging decision-makers at Devon County Council to re-think its plans to end all funding for adult homelessness support services in the county.  As a charity, St Petrock’s relies mainly on public support and does not benefit from this funding, however it will be extremely challenging for the affected accommodation projects and other services to continue to support those most at risk of homelessness, and this is likely to result in a massive increase in demand for St Petrock’s vital survival services, which are already stretched.

Disastrous

Peter Stephenson, St Petrock’s Director said: “This is disastrous for people at risk of homelessness in Exeter and across Devon, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Long-standing and desperately needed support is set to disappear, removing a life-line people desperately need to avoid becoming homeless.

“We’re horrified at the widespread human suffering this could cause and are urgently considering how we can support all those who are forced onto the streets as a result.  We’re talking to our partners about a joint response to the consultation.

“Sadly, our beautiful city already has one of the highest levels of rough sleeping in the country for its size following the surge in homelessness over the past year, and is as high as I can remember in my 20 years working here. 15 years or so ago we had a comprehensive system of homelessness support and accommodation projects, and there were only a handful of rough sleepers in Exeter, but this has gradually been dismantled as vital support services have been repeatedly cut, leading to essential accommodation projects closing.

“We see the results of this on our streets every single day. That the county council now proposes to axe the remainder of homeless support is unthinkable.

“What those in national and local government fail to acknowledge – and this has been the case as long as I can remember – is that so-called savings like this only cause much greater costs to pop up elsewhere in overstretched police, ambulance and mental health services.

“Again, we already see the results of this on our streets, too often with tragic consequences. Are councillors really serious about making this much, much worse, along with all the human hardship?”

Mr Stephenson added: “As a charity, I fear we will be facing the most challenging time in our 27 year history and we’re asking that everyone who cares about homelessness in Exeter takes five minutes to respond to the consultation and urge decision-makers to scrap the plans, by emailing HomelessnessPreventionFundConsultation@devon.gov.uk. The consultation closes on 19 April.”

Please donate

St Petrock’s relies on donations from members of the public for the vast majority of its funding. Donations can be made via its website