Councils pledge to help rough sleepers this winter
Local authorities across the West Midlands have pledged to work together to help rough sleepers this winter as part of a coordinated regional response.
For the second year running the seven metropolitan authorities, in collaboration with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Homelessness Task Force, and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors, have drawn up a homelessness winter plan to help keep rough sleepers safe. The plan provides a commitment that no one needs to sleep rough as shelters, hostels, and emergency accommodation will all be open and available as part of local authorities’ severe weather provision.
This commitment covers everyone, including pet owners, couples, those who have no recourse to public funds, people who may have previously been banned from support services, those with no local connection, and people with complex needs.
For those who need to travel to get to accommodation or to access the support they need, free bus tickets will be available thanks to a collaboration with National Express West Midlands.
Also as part of the 2019 winter plan, people in the West Midlands will be able to alert local authorities to rough sleepers by contacting StreetLink. Each council will then use their own plans and expertise to help rough sleepers, with outreach teams in the seven authorities of the WMCA area working rapidly to locate rough sleepers and support them into a place of safety.
Julie Griffin, acting housing director at Birmingham City Council, said: “Winter is a hugely important time when it comes to supporting people who are sleeping rough on our city’s streets. With the near freezing temperatures bringing people indoors, it provides us with additional time to really engage with people indoors, in a stable environment, to be able to make repeat offers of support for health, housing and their general wellbeing.
“Knowing how important these opportunities are, every year, we ensure that in Birmingham there is more than enough emergency accommodation for everybody. To know what support is needed, we need to have a good understanding of the community we are serving. Thanks to the continued hard work of our outreach team and of our partners who help us deliver on our homelessness prevention strategy, this year will be no exception.”
The winter plan follows on from a successful year for the region’s Housing First pilot, with more than 100 rough sleepers moving into permanent accommodation. Over the winter, Housing First will help entrenched rough sleepers with the most complex needs to access accommodation alongside intensive support to enable them to recover from issues such as substance abuse.
WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman said: “This plan sets out our joint commitment to keep the most vulnerable people safe during the winter and to make every effort to engage individuals with appropriate services to help them move away from sleeping on the streets for good.
“We know that conditions during the winter that present the greatest risk to the health of people who sleep rough are low temperatures, strong winds, heavy rain and snow. We will do everything we can to ensure that there is a route off the streets for every single person who finds themselves there during severe weather.”
Notes to Editors:
West Midlands Winter Plan for Rough Sleepers
- Across the West Midlands public, private and charitable agencies will be working to engage and support rough sleepers off the streets. Specifically, rough sleeper outreach teams in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton will work to rapidly respond to locate people known to be sleeping rough and support them to access a place of safety.
- Severe weather provision across the WMCA region will provide individuals with a safe place to stay and allow an intensive assessment of needs. All local authorities will trigger severe weather provision in line with individual local arrangements, taking into account Met Office yellow weather warnings where appropriate.
- Everyone who is sleeping rough in the WMCA region will be able to access severe weather provision. This includes people whose needs are complex, pet owners, couples, those who have no recourse to public funds, people who may have previously been banned from support services, and those with no local connection.
- The West Midlands Housing First Pilot will support entrenched rough sleepers with the most complex needs to access accommodation alongside intensive support to enable them to recover from issues such as mental ill health or substance abuse and to sustain their tenancies.
- Charities working with homeless people in Birmingham, Solihull and Wolverhampton will be able to access funding through Change into Action and Alternative Giving: Small Change for a Big Change to support individuals off the street and to receive personalised support to meet their individual needs. Charities in other areas should contact their Homeless Prevention Teams.
- Across the WMCA region public information will highlight the vulnerability of people who sleep rough and the ways in which the public are best able to help.
- Free bus tickets will be available through our partnership with National Express West Midlands in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton to enable rough sleepers to access the support that they need to travel to accommodation.
- Members of the public right across the West Midlands will be able to alert local authorities about rough sleepers in their area by contacting StreetLink to connect people sleeping rough to local support services.
- In November each local authority will coordinate a rough sleeper count or count based estimate to gain an accurate snapshot figure of how many people are sleeping rough in the West Midlands on a typical night and use this information to track our progress in tackling rough sleeping and to inform new approaches.
- In line with the Homelessness Reduction Act many public bodies including prisons, youth offender institutions, youth offending teams, secure training centres and colleges, probation services, jobcentre plus, accident and emergency services provided in a hospital, urgent treatment centres and hospitals in their capacity of providing in-patient treatment and social service authorities across the WMCA region will deliver their duty to refer people at risk of homelessness to their local authority. Additionally in the WMCA area many bodies will be voluntarily adopting this responsibility to refer and beyond that to collaborate with their local authority in preventing homelessness.
- Local authorities and the WMCA will be working in partnership with charity, faith and voluntary organisations who create additional accommodation and support capacity across the winter and Christmas period.
- Local authorities will encourage all professionals to check on the welfare of a rough sleeper and offer help or signposting.
For more information or to contact StreetLink, visit https://www.streetlink.org.uk/ or call 0300 500 0914