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Homelessness and Rough Sleeping on the Agenda

Plans to enhance how the Council works with partners to prevent homelessness and support those who may become homeless over the next five years are being discussed next week.

Cabinet is being asked to approve a draft Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy which identifies a range of new measures to further develop statutory services provided to eligible people in priority need, who may be vulnerable, including those with dependent children, disabilities, mental health issues and abusive relationships.

The draft document, designed to build on the current strategy covering up to 2021, is based on a comprehensive review of homelessness and housing need in Newcastle-under-Lyme after the Government tasked all local authorities with reviewing their strategies, ensuring a specific focus on addressing rough sleeping in line with national plans.

One of the things the review showed was that the number of individuals who sleep rough in Newcastle remain in single figures per night and are very similar to previous years. The estimate in 2019 was six compared to four in 2018 and five in 2017.

An action plan outlines key outcomes against priorities of preventing homelessness, supporting households into sustainable housing solutions, working in partnership to address homelessness in the borough and tackling rough sleeping.

Additional measures proposed include:

  • Homeless households possibly accessing empty properties brought back into use;
  • Developing referral arrangements and working with those who commission and deliver drug, alcohol and mental health services to ensure joined up support;
  • Improving the Make it Count scheme where passers-by are encouraged to make donations instead of giving money to beggars;
  • Making closer links with voluntary and community agencies such as foodbanks and consistency in tackling homelessness across the borough;
  • Identifying new funding opportunities and working with other statutory partners to identify gaps in services.

The Council is seeing an increase in customers who are eligible for support as the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places more emphasis on prevention and relief, meaning that more people qualify for assistance.

Cllr. Jill Waring, Cabinet member for community safety and well-being, said: “The Council has had significant success in preventing homelessness. This draft strategy, our fifth, builds on our achievements and proposes to continue focusing on prevention and early intervention, with targeted work on issues such as rough sleeping, while improving access to quality services and promoting value for money.

“Homelessness is a complex issue that can’t be solved by the Council alone which is why we want to create an even stronger network of partnerships and services to help people when they need it most. There isn’t one single reason why someone can end up without a home but we know that domestic abuse, relationship breakdowns and private landlords wishing to sell or re-let their private rented homes are common ones in Newcastle.

“Rough sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people at risk and the number of referrals made to our excellent outreach service. The number of rough sleepers in the borough is low but this is still too many – more must be done to provide appropriate pathways off the streets. There is also a dramatic increase in begging in the town centre by people who are not necessarily homeless.”

Various budgets are in place to support the Council’s responsibilities for homelessness.

Last updated 10 January 2020

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