Half of capital's rough sleepers are not UK nationals, minister says

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A minister has told peers that half of rough sleepers in London are not UK nationals and that "reconnecting" them with their home countries is the best way to rehabilitate them.

Communities and Local Government Minister Baroness Hanham was replying to a question from Labour's Lord Roberts of Llandudno on 27 March 2013.

Lord Roberts, who is the president of a charity helping homeless eastern Europeans called Barka UK, said the organisation was mainly funded by local authorities and "in the funding crisis much of that funding is being withdrawn and that will means that those who previously could have been helped will now be still on the streets of London".

Further pressure came from shadow local government spokesman Lord McKenzie of Luton, who claimed homelessness had risen 23% across England and 25% in London since 2010.

Highlighting London Mayor Boris Johnson's pledge to end rough sleeping in the capital by 2012 - and referencing recent media coverage of Mr Johnson - Lord McKenzie asked: "Are any conversations or interviews planned with the mayor to find out where it's all going wrong?"

Lib Dem Baroness Hussein-Ece raised the problem of young people leaving care, a group she described as "disproportionately" represented among rough sleepers.

In her response, Lady Hanham confirmed that four local authorities working with Barka UK will cancel their funding.

She explained that the Polish embassy "works closely" with a number of homeless charities and emphasised: "Reconnecting rough sleepers with their home countries is the best way to tackle destitution."

She went on to deny that the mayor's strategy was going wrong, pointing out that the government contributes to his No Second Night Out initiative.

In answer to Lady Hussein-Ece, the minister said there were "very fast services" available to help people in the 14-18 age group and "anybody of that age shouldn't be on the street for more than a very, very short time".

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