Thumbs up to homelessness and rough sleeping strategy
Plans to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in Central Bedfordshire over the next five years was approved at a meeting by the Council’s Executive yesterday (7 January).
The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for 2020-2025 follows a review of homelessness issues and emerging demands, which involved consultations with partners, those affected by homelessness and the public.
Feedback to the strategy were largely positive with the majority agreeing to the vision for the next five years. The feedback also helped shape the key priorities, which include:
Delivering more affordable homes for different needs – Investment has already been set aside to provide an additional 153 affordable council owned homes per annum until 2024.
Raising awareness of the support and services available and how to access them- Last year 53% of households were prevented from becoming homeless through early intervention and the aim is to increase this further, making best use of increased government grant funding.
Maximising opportunities for more partnership working with clearer pathways to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping sooner - The existing partnership with NOAH Enterprise will expand to provide extra support to rough sleepers with a new free national app (Streetlink) to report the location of rough sleepers and a ‘rapid rehousing pathway’ will be created to provide housing opportunities for those who sleep rough or are at the risk of sleeping rough.
Improving access to health services and health outcomes for those affected by homelessness and rough sleeping – frontline staff will receive mental health awareness training to identify needs and a new dedicated mental health and substance abuse specialists will be established for rough sleepers.
Maximising funding opportunities and making the best use of resources – better partnership working, making joint bids for extra funding and reducing reoccurring homelessness.
These priorities will build upon the existing progress already made over the last five years to tackle this national problem. Some of the key achievements and progress made include:
- Delivery of 110 more affordable council owned homes each year on average since 2016.
- Completion of a further 535 affordable homes last year, resulting from close collaboration with housing association partners.
- Preventing 43% of households becoming homeless in 2018 through early invention with the figure rising to 56% in 2019.
- Reducing the number of identified rough sleepers from 17 in 2018 to 13 identified rough sleepers in 2019. The target is to eliminate rough-sleeping in Central Bedfordshire by 2027.
Councillor Carole Hegley, the CBC Executive Member for Adults, Social Care, Housing Operations (HRA) and Customer Services, said: “Homelessness can happen to anyone and there are many reasons why people become homeless, sometimes through no fault of their own. The Shelter charity* finds that 37% of us would not be able to cover our housing costs for more than a month if we lost our jobs.
“Homelessness isn’t just about those who sleep rough on the streets but includes people who sofa surf, squat or stay at shelters or with friends and family. There are also those who choose to sleep rough or reject the help of accommodation.
“The strategy aims to tackle all these issues and I’m proud to say we deliver far more affordable homes than many other local authorities. However, we’re certainly not complacent and know there remains a lot more to do to support access to accommodation at all levels of income as well as homes for people who are disabled, in vulnerable circumstances, or to enable residents to own their own home.”
To download the Streetlink app for free visit: www.streetlink.org.uk/ to register. Or, download the app from the Apple or Google store.
When a report of a rough sleeper is made an update will be given when the person has been visited by outreach workers and what is being done.
*Figures taken from The Guardian website: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/09/england-one-in-three-families-one-months-pay-losing-homes-shelter-study
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