Housing charity speaks out for ex-prisoners

 The Catholic Housing Aid Society (CHAS) has condemned a Conservative party campaign which claims ex-prisoners are being given social housing before families with young children. While the Homes Bill, currently in the committee stage at the House of Commons proposes to give more support to people leaving prison, Tory spokesman for Urban Regeneration said on Monday: "This means more children living in bed and breakfasts - while 'neighbours from hell' and ex-offenders push them down the housing list." A spokeswoman for CHAS dismissed this claim, saying: "This statement is sending out a very misleading message. Ex-prisoners and families are not competing for the same accommodation. Most ex-prisoners only need single person accommodation while of course families require much more space." She said: "Ex-prisoners are forced into homelessness now, because their housing benefit stops after just 13 weeks. They used to receive it for a year. A young person kept in prison just on remand, or for a very short sentence, can be driven into a spiral of homelessness and poverty. "It is well known that at least of 50 per cent of street sleepers come straight from institutions. It is far more expensive to get someone back from that situation than providing them with some support and housing in the first place." Shelter and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) echoed this view in a joint letter which they have sent to the government. They said: "Extending priority need to vulnerable ex-offenders is an appropriate policy for preventing homelessness and tackling rough sleepers in the long term. It also helps reduce re-offending rates. Therefore we support the government and reject these comments by Mr Loughton."

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