Bigger push needed to offer rough sleepers new accommodation by September
A pledge to provide support for rough sleepers currently housed during Covid-19 to prevent a return to the streets could fall behind, Greens have warned, highlighting that government and local action will be needed to ensure people are helped by September.
A proposal from Green Councillors to stop rough sleepers being returned to ‘life on the streets,’ has led the council to increase its efforts to obtain new housing options for people sleeping rough in the city, following the steps already taken by the council to secure short-term accommodation for rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with news that some hotel provision being used for this purpose is expected to return to commercial use in September, Greens say quick work will be needed to help as many people as possible.
Conversations with the government’s Ministry of Housing suggest that the council could receive extra money for the work to rehouse rough sleepers, but with the council still awaiting information from government, Greens say a lack of funding will continue to put a significant strain on local capacity. A meeting of Housing Committee (Wednesday 17th June) clarified that currently, 236 units of accommodation are still required to ensure many of the city’s rough sleepers do not face a return to the streets. Both Green and Labour Councillors have actively lobbied the government for more financial assistance in a letter sent directly to the Prime Minister’s adviser on homelessness, Dame Louise Casey, last month.
Pointing to already established options, such as long-term supported housing, interventions such as ‘Housing First,’ and outreach to the private rented sector, Greens say fulfilling commitments already made to help rough sleepers will be key to ensuring more help is offered. Housing First schemes – which are based on the principle of providing rough sleepers with a home from which they can better receive support, have been supported by the council but many rough sleepers are still waiting for a council home, despite being offered support under the scheme. Greens say much swifter action will be needed if the council is to securely house rough sleepers in hotels through the ‘Housing First,’ route.
While thanking council workers for positive progress to date, Greens say greater upfront support now could help to house more people in future. Greens have also called on the council to monitor the progress and support offered to people, in order to track how many people can be helped.
Councillor David Gibson, Green joint opposition Housing spokesperson, commented:
“It was really heart-warming to hear council housing workers and councillors state that they are committed to preventing a return to the streets for rough sleepers.
“With rough sleepers housed in good accommodation and with their physical and mental health already improving, now is the moment to provide an offer for all to move off the streets. Building on the council’s commitment to prevent rough sleeping, we must seize this opportunity.
“We need resources from government now, but we also need to crack on, set up and monitor targets for sustainable rehousing over the next 10 weeks to avoid a cliff edge when accommodation runs out in September. Each week there are an average of seven new rough sleepers found. To turn the tide in time, we need to be finding long term accommodation for around 20 people a week – so we are keen that this work progresses more quickly.”
Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, Green joint opposition Housing spokesperson added:
“I am delighted to hear that the Council has hired six additional experienced Homeless Persons officers to help with the process of developing move-on plans for all those currently in hotel and hostel accommodation. The extra investment at this stage should save the council money down the line.
“It is also great to hear that the council is in dialogue with the government Ministry of Housing. We urgently need the Ministry to come back with an offer of additional resources and capacity so that we can support as many people as possible to move on from rough sleeping.”