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The UK Government is in danger of causing ‘irreparable damage’ to supported housing for homeless people, a leading charity has warned today (Tuesday).

St Mungo’s is asking people to sign a petition that calls on the Government to rethink plans to change the way homeless hostels are funded, which they warn could result in an increase in rough sleeping.

Rough sleeping in England has soared by 134 per cent over the past five years, with as many as 4,134 individuals sleeping rough on any one night. Estimates suggest 4 in 10 rough sleepers have mental health problems and are at risk of violence and abuse.

Hostels provide homeless people with a safe place to spend the night and can help people escape homelessness for good and rebuild their lives.

A Government green paper, due to be published this spring, will outline how homeless services will be funded in future years.

National Audit Office analysis shows this has already been cut by 45 per cent since 2010/11. St Mungo’s is urging the Government not to put vital services at risk by reducing funding even further.

Rob, who has been homeless on and off for 20 years, told the charity: “The keywork was incredible – there was a plan put in action within two days of me moving in that was monitored.

“It was like ‘this is what you want to achieve, these are your goals’, so I kept being refreshed – ‘look, this is what you want to do.’

“When I had nothing, everything I wanted I had to put onto paper, and they’d make sure that I would achieve that.

“I got my debts cleared, I got rehoused, I got my benefits sorted out, all these little things build those pages, and before you know, it turns into the book. I would say it was more than a foundation, they showed me how to be a person again.”

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A report by The National Housing Federation warned of a shortfall of 16,692 places in supported housing for working-age people in 2015/16, at a cost of £361 million to the taxpayer.

Research by Homeless Link found providing homeless people with a safe place to stay saves an estimated £6,703 per person per year because of reduced costs to health, social care and criminal justice services.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “Homelessness is not inevitable. By providing a safe place to stay and specialist support, our supported housing projects help people to recover from homelessness and rebuild their lives away from the streets.

“Cuts in local authority funding and the Government’s decision not to exempt hostels from the reduction in rents already puts these services under great strain.

“The changes the Government is proposing now could cause irreparable damage and may ultimately lead to a loss of services at a time when rough sleeping is on the rise.

“The Government needs to give this important issue the time it deserves and work with the sector to develop a sustainable new funding system that protects these vital services, so we can continue to help people to get off the streets for good.”