Earlier intervention to prevent people becoming rough sleepers
A new £1.1 million approach to preventing and reducing rough sleeping in Cornwall was launched at County Hall Truro today.
The multi-agency rough sleeper reduction strategy will work to prevent rough sleeping in the first instance by helping those most at risk, help new rough sleepers quickly access housing, help and support people to get off the streets as well as identify and provide support for entrenched rough sleepers to help them off the streets permanently.
The ‘Nos Da Kernow’ (lit: Good Night Cornwall) strategy is launched within the context of increasing numbers of rough sleepers in Cornwall. Using percentages of population Cornwall is now the authority with the third highest number of rough sleepers in the country.
The scheme has an admirable ambition to reduce the number of rough sleepers in Cornwall to zero by 2020.
The strategy is backed by £1.1 million of funding – £850,000 from Cornwall Council’s reserves and £292,000 from a successful bid to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Some of this will fund 4 emergency beds across Cornwall for those at immediate risk from rough sleeping.
Collette Jolly, Homeless Patient Advisor based at Treliske told us that she has 30 referrals of ‘at risk rough sleepers’ added to her case load per month. Collette is on the front line and her job is to prevent hospital admissions from being discharged with nowhere to go. She praised the work of homeless shelter Cusgarne Hall in St Austell which has reduced rough sleeping to almost zero in the town. She called for more centres like this to be opened.
It was clear from the professionals at today’s County Hall launch this morning that the current welfare reforms have played a large part in increasing the numbers of rough sleepers. Universal Credit implementation was an issue that was raised repeatedly, along with benefit sanctions. Under UC , claimants now receive their benefits monthly, in a lump sum. It is no longer possible for landlords to receive their rent direct so vulnerable people often fall into arrears as they struggle to manage their own money and budget, some for the first time in their life.
Cornwall’s Strategic Rough Sleeping Reduction Partnership challenged those present to commit to the “Homelessness Charter” “There is an underlying principle that as citizens of Cornwall, whether service commissioner, housing provider, community group or individual with the desire to help, we need to work together to provide a consistent message and response to people sleeping rough to support them in improving their lives” it read “Through this Charter, stakeholders in Cornwall agree to work together to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping and will support those affected into regaining their independence to deliver the vision: “To make sure no-one has the need to sleep rough in Cornwall by 2020”
Another key element of the strategy is the ‘Housing First’ approach which provides independent, stable housing as the foundation for enabling people with multiple and complex needs to then receive wrap around services and get their lives back on track. Two additional outreach workers alongside the existing St Petroc’s team are now in place to work with rough sleepers and to develop a ‘Housing First’ approach in Cornwall. There are 66 additional units of supported housing planned as part of the strategy.
Cornwall Council Cabinet member for homes Andrew Mitchell said: “It is frightening how quickly someone can find themselves faced with the prospect of sleeping rough. In Cornwall, as in other parts of the country, we have seen an increase in homelessness and the continuing impacts of welfare reform mean that more people are at risk of becoming homeless”
“This new strategy means earlier help to people who are in desperate need of accommodation and support and placing them on a path that will not involve worrying about their safety at night because they are forced to sleep rough.”
The reduction strategy will be delivered by Cornwall Council, Cornwall Housing Ltd, Coastline Housing, Voluntary Sector Providers, Safer Cornwall, the Drug and Alcohol Action Team, Devon & Cornwall Police, Public Health (including Mental Health Services) and Inclusion Cornwall.
“We saw the number of people found sleeping rough on one night drop from 99 last November to 82 in May this year – but we know homelessness can often be hidden and changing this will take time. Partnership working is critical to tackling this national problem,” Councillor Mitchell said.
Another key element of the strategy is the ‘Housing First’ approach which provides independent, stable housing as the foundation for enabling people with multiple and complex needs to then receive wrap around services and get their lives back on track. Two additional outreach workers alongside the existing St Petroc’s team are now in place to work with rough sleepers and to develop a ‘Housing First’ approach in Cornwall.
Cornwall Housing’s Director of Housing Options, Cathy Hadfield said: “This is a great example of working together in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping head on. The strong focus on prevention and early intervention is key. The earlier we are able to assist someone the better chance we have of preventing the next step resulting in sleeping rough.”
People at risk of homelessness or worried about their housing situation can contact the advice team at Cornwall Housing on 0300 1234 161.
Members of the public who have concerns about a rough sleeper in their area should go to the Streetlink website or phone Streetlink on 0300 500 0914. The rough sleeper will be contacted by the Street Outreach Team within 24 hours and offered advice, assistance and support to find accommodation.