RECENT government proposals to help young homeless by converting halls and former hospital accommodation into emergency hostels received a cool reception from churchbased caring organisations.
"The government must not think that it can buy its way out of a corner by playing on the consiences of churches and others," said the Revd Michael Fielding, chairperson of UNLEASH, the United London Ecumenical Action on Single Homelessness.
None of the members of UNLEASH, he said, had been consulted on the use of church halls as emergency night shelters. The use of such accommodation, he pointed out, "would only serve to put off further into the future the action that needs to be taken now, the building of government financed, permanent, low-cost, rented housing."
"While welcoming any initiative from the government that increases the resources available for homeless people, we must be aware that this latest one is limited", said Cheryl St Clair, Director of London-based Providence Row Housing Association, which is associated with the Sisters of Mercy.
"Our statistics show that over 50 per cent of the homeless people we are forced to turn away because our emergency hostel is full are over the age of 25," said Ms St Clair.
There is obviously more to solving the homeless problem than gathering people together, said the Society of St Vincent de Paul in response to the government plan. "It is hoped that counselling advice and support services will be made available to provide the homeless with hope in the longer term".
Bernard Cawley, Director of the Cardinal Home Centre for young people at risk, called on the government to ensure that proposed accommodation units are small centres where people can humanely live. "It is not good enough to suggest that the homeless are one homogenised mass of people. They are all individuals with individual needs," Mr Cawley said.
Fr Padraig Lyons, founder of the Acton Homeless Concern, hoped that the government would examine adequately the reasons behind being homeless "which include family breakup, addictions and poverty".