Church leaders raise fears over the future of homeless project

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Church leaders in Harrogate have raised fears that homeless projects in the spa town could face spending cuts and warned such a move would be “a disaster waiting to happen.”

They believe support for two flagship projects in the town could be cut from April next year and they are planning to hold a fundraising dinner later this month which campaigners say will be attended by Bishop James Bell, area bishop of Ripon, which aims to create a fighting fund to try to stop any possible cuts.

However last night County Coun Don Mackenzie North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for public health and prevention stressed that it recognised the importance of the service and said it planned to continue funding.

Churches Together in Harrogate, which represents churches across the community, says it has been told that from next April the Harrogate Homeless hostel and the No Second Night Out scheme, aimed at giving immediate help to rough sleepers face loosing support.

The organisation believes the 16-bed hostel, risks loosing its Supporting People grant of £60,000 a year, administered through North Yorkshire County Council, from April. In addition it has also says that Government funding of £80,000 for the No Second Night Out initiative will end.

The Rev Guy Donegan-Cross, chairman of Churches Together in Harrogate said: “There is a huge and sometimes unseen need in Harrogate.

“For over 20 years we have proudly given shelter to those in need. And now in one fell swoop, it could just be taken away.”

Campaigners say any cuts will have a huge impact on all of the Harrogate Homeless Project’s (HHP) services. The project was set up by Churches Together in 1991.

Coun Mackenzie said he was asked about the future of the services at a recent council meeting by a councillor and replied: “I have made inquiries with the Supporting People officer following the concern you expressed for the future funding of the Harrogate Homeless Project. I agree with you that this organisation provides a very important service for homeless people in the Harrogate area.

“The extent of the financial support given to HHP by the County is over £70,000 pa. The level of support in the financial year 2015/16 and beyond has yet to be determined. Whilst there are great pressures on budgets over the next four years, the importance of the benefits provided by HHP should offer a degree of protection to its funding, and I will monitor this situation very closely.”

Last night he added: “I repeat that the county recognises the very important service provided by the Harrogate Homeless Project and that the county’s support is vital to its sustainability. For that reason, we will continue to provide funding in spite of the financial pressures on our own budgets.”

The project was chosen as one of 18 towns and cities in England to roll out No Second Night Out, and funding was committed for an agreed period.

Campaigners will host a dinner on November 26 at St Mark’s church, Leeds Road, at 7.30pm aimed at raising a “fighting fund” to campaign against the possible cuts. People should email: hughthewildfowler@btinternet.com for tickets which cost £10.