A York MP today pleaded with council bosses to reverse a shock decision to end funding for the Salvation Army’s rough sleepers programme in York.

As reported in the Press recently, members of the charity’s early intervention team are out at 5am five days a week, checking on people sleeping rough on the city’s streets to ensure they’re OK, and to direct them towards help or a hot meal.

The charity also runs a regular drop-in service for rough sleepers.

But all of that looks set to stop from the end of next month when City of York Council ends its £95,000-a year of funding for the programme.

The shock announcement that the council would not be renewing the Salvation Army funding contract was made late yesterday - prompting an impassioned plea from York Central MP Rachael Maskell for the authority to think again.

“They (the Salvation Army’s rough sleepers team) provide an incredible service,” Ms Maskell said. “I don’t know how that service can be replaced.”

York Press: Charlie Malarkey of the Salvation Army checking on rough sleepers in York in the early morningCharlie Malarkey of the Salvation Army checking on rough sleepers in York in the early morning (Image: Stephen Lewis)

The council says it will be expanding its own rough sleepers service under a new homelessness strategy, with the help of an extra £260,000 of government funding over the next two years.

Council leader Cllr Claire Douglas said that would enable the authority to expand its own team of rough sleeping ‘navigators’, who like the Salvation Army team do early morning checks (though only for one morning a week) but are also out and about at other times of day and follow rough sleepers through a programme of interventions designed to get them off the street.

The council is also to start its own drop-in service for rough sleepers, five mornings a week at the Peasholme Centre hostel on Fishergate.

And it will also use the new government funding to expand its ‘housing first’ programme, under which rough sleepers are given help to find permanent housing and then ‘wraparound’ support to ensure they are able to stay in their new homes.

York Press: Cllr Claire DouglasCllr Claire Douglas (Image: Supplied)

Cllr Douglas today doubled down on a commitment to end rough sleeping in York within the next four years made recently by the authority's housing boss Cllr Michael Pavlovic, who was not at yesterday's announcement.

"We would like to end it (rough sleeping) by May 2027,” she said.


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Cllr Douglas pledged to put the extra £260,000 of government funding over the next two years to ‘good effect’. But she said that to do that, a new rough sleeping strategy was needed that looked for longer term solutions.

“The work that the Salvation Army has delivered has been hugely valuable,” she said.

“But we need to adjust to a new service and a model (for tackling rough sleeping) supported by the government.

“It is about looking at what services the council is offering to our homeless community and (making the best use of) the resources that we have available.”

But urging the authority to think again, Ms Maskell said: “My thoughts are with homeless people, who have a unique association with Charlie and Sarah (Charlie Malarkey and Sarah Pirie of the Salvation Army’s rough sleeping team).

“I simply ask, who has consulted with the homeless communities of York? Service users should be central to that decision making, especially those with the least agency.

“I’m really concerned about the homeless people who use that service, and I would urge that this decision by the council be reviewed.”

York Press: York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who has urged the city council to think again on ending the Salvation Army's rough sleeping fundingYork Central MP Rachael Maskell, who has urged the city council to think again on ending the Salvation Army's rough sleeping funding (Image: Supplied)

The council’s head of housing management Denis Southall said there would be a ‘transition period’ up to the end of October when the council’s own rough sleeping ‘navigators’ would work with the Salvation Army team.

Quizzed about whether members of the Salvation Army’s rough sleeping team could be brought on board and offered jobs as part of the council’s own expanded rough sleeping team, he said: “The new posts will be advertised.” Applicants would need the ‘right skills’, he added.