Support for rough sleepers helping people move off the streets

The support on offer during Covid has led to Brighton & Hove having the largest decrease of people sleeping rough in the country outside London. 

The figures are included in the government’s latest rough sleeping snapshot for England and based on the count carried out in November last year, which found 27 people sleeping rough in the city - a 69% decrease on figures for November 2019. 

We carry out a street count in the city every two months. The latest was on 28 January and found the figures had dropped further, with nine people sleeping out.

Our street outreach partners St Mungo’s have been working in the city seven days a week throughout the winter to help anyone sleeping on the streets into safe, secure accommodation.

It’s important that anyone sleeping rough is offered help as soon as possible and that the assistance meets their needs, so accommodation is provided through referrals from organisations who understand what’s available and what support is needed.

This winter, our severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) shelter has operated in a Covid-safe way that has helped vulnerable rough sleepers move on to longer term accommodation when it’s not in operation, rather than returning to the streets.

Since November, SWEP has opened 66 times, which is more than the previous winter.

If you’re concerned about anyone sleeping rough in the city, please let us know by reporting through the Streetlink website or by calling 0300 500 0914.

Care and support keeping people safe

Our Covid emergency accommodation remains available for anyone needing the council’s help.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked with health and voluntary sector partners to provide safe, self-contained accommodation and support for people who were sleeping rough.

Arch Healthcare and health partners have worked together to provide a mobile vaccination service for vulnerable homeless people. 

They’ve been able to vaccinate more than 500 extremely clinically vulnerable and clinically vulnerable people who would otherwise struggle to access the vaccinations so far, and aim to vaccinate a further 500 in the coming weeks.

Next steps

A report going to the Housing Committee on 17 March (agenda item 146) gives an update on the current situation and outlines the next steps to help everyone accommodated move on to sustainable long term housing.

We’re currently accommodating around 400 people who may otherwise be sleeping rough in the city, and are seeking to extend the emergency accommodation beyond 31 March.

Around 250 of the people accommodated at the end of September have now moved on from the emergency accommodation, with most successfully rehoused in more stable housing. 

Work is continuing to help everyone to move on to more sustainable accommodation continues, but it remains a huge challenge with a shortage of suitable housing options and staffing required to support the moves.

The numbers of people becoming homeless in the city is still increasing, adding to the pressure on all our emergency accommodation.

A high proportion of the people still waiting to be housed have multiple and compound needs and need support, so we’re expanding our ‘Housing First’ service and our supported housing options. 

We have 30 more properties in the pipeline for Housing First accommodation. These are being bought through our Home Purchase Policy, and the first few residents have now moved in.

We’ve allocated funding in next year’s budget to purchase a further 18 properties for Housing First, and will continue to explore further funding opportunities to expand the service further. 

The report also proposes that Housing Committee recommend to Full Council that the ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’ is used as a standard for the council and its partners to judge policies and practices by.

The council’s Homelessness & Rough Sleeper Strategy, agreed in June 2020, already aligns to the aspirations within the bill.

Homeless prevention service

If the route out of lockdown goes as outlined, we’re hoping to reintroduce our face-to-face homeless prevention and housing options services to support anyone potentially facing homelessness from 21 June at the latest.

The support we provide includes action to prevent applicants from sleeping rough, in line with the Homeless Reduction Act 2017, help to retain or secure accommodation, and a personalised housing plan. 

Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the housing Options service helped 438 households avoid becoming homeless between 1 April and 31 December 2020.

We are anticipating an increase in service demand from residents affected financially by the pandemic. Affordability is one the biggest causes of private rented sector eviction in Brighton & Hove.

We are communicating with landlords and agents in the city requesting they contact us if they are considering eviction to help us resolve matters and avoid homelessness. It is essential we are able to respond at the earliest stage. 

If you are threatened with homelessness, please contact our early intervention team as soon as possible. They can support you with any problems making it difficult to stay in your home. 

Making an impact

Councillor David Gibson, joint chair of the Housing Committee, said: “It’s fantastic that we have so few people needing to sleep rough in the city – these are the lowest figures for many years.

“The accommodation and support we’ve been able to offer to all rough sleepers and others facing homelessness through the pandemic is making a real impact. 

“We’re continuing our focus on moving people into longer term sustainable housing to make sure no-one needs to return the streets. I know staff have worked really hard to achieve this and deserve our thanks. 

“There is still a huge challenge ahead but I’m particularly pleased to see people start moving into our newly acquired Housing First properties.

“These have been turned around incredibly quickly to offer secure housing with support to help people manage.

“We have more in the pipeline and have agreed a budget to expand this service by another 18 properties further next year. 

“This will allow us to house people who have spent many of the last 20 years on the city’s streets. 

“Though we have made such good progress, I am very worried about a tsunami of homelessness once the eviction ban ends. I urge all landlords to avoid evictions where at all possible and work with the council so we can help avoid people losing their homes.”

Councillor Gill Williams, the opposition lead for housing, said: “It is great news to see such low number of people sleeping on the streets.

“It’s down to the staff and volunteers across many services who’ve worked incredibly hard to provide support and accommodation for people who would otherwise be on the streets.

“It is our shared priority to end the need for anyone to sleep rough in the city. We believe everyone has the right to safe, secure accommodation and, where needed, an appropriate level of support to create a good quality of life.”

Make Change Count

If you’d like to support the charities and organisations across Brighton & Hove working with people to help them find a permanent solution to their homelessness, please donate to Make Change Count.

The Make Change Count campaign links local organisations experienced in supporting rough sleepers and preventing homelessness. 

These organisations, like many in the city, are currently working during the Covid crisis to provide connections into services and help people meet their basic needs.

The current fundraising has raised more than £37,000 - many thanks to everyone who has donated.

Find out more

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