Update: How we are supporting rough sleepers during the coronavirus pandemic
Hackney Council has committed that none of the rough sleepers currently housed in emergency accommodation will be asked to return to the streets, including those with no recourse to public funds - and are calling on central Government to do the same and provide the funding needed.
The Council continues to support over 170 people in emergency accommodation, to make sure those sleeping rough - or at risk of sleeping rough - during the coronavirus crisis have a safe place to live.
At the start of the crisis, back in March, the Council block booked hotel rooms to make sure people were able to isolate safely. Many of these people have significant physical or mental health needs, and some are shielding.
The Council is continuing to support people into longer term housing, and we have secured longer term hotel accommodation to ensure those who most need it have somewhere to stay while we do this.
Our Street Outreach Team has been working closely with all 170 people, and have been able to form trusting relationships with some of the borough’s longest standing rough sleepers, many of whom have, for the first time, started to accept support and work with staff. The Council wants to ensure this work is not undone as the lockdown is lifted.
Deputy Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Rebecca Rennison, has written to Dame Louise Casey, who is leading a Government task force, urging her not to miss a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to end rough sleeping’. Cllr Rennison highlighted three priorities that she - and officers working with rough sleepers - think the Government should prioritise. They are:
- Additional funding: Hackney is spending over £7,000 a day on emergency accommodation but has received just £10,000 additional funding from the government. We have been clear that funding to date is insufficient and more resources are needed if we are to ensure ‘everybody in’ becomes everybody in for good.
- No recourse to public funds: At the moment there is no route out of rough sleeping for those whose immigration status means they are unable to either work or access benefits. The Government’s latest communication chose to remind us of the status of those with NRPF, rather than start a meaningful conversation about the support we can put in place.
- Integrated approach: There has to be an integrated approach, working with health partners. The multiple factors that result in an individual sleeping on the streets are complex, often involving a combination of mental ill health and substance addiction and in many cases linked to previous experience of trauma. This is an approach we have embedded here in Hackney and needs to be replicated across the country to ensure the needs of rough sleepers are met.
The Council has established a working group with colleagues from across the organisation, to ensure that wraparound support and accommodation is available for those who need it. We have now mapped out a programme of support covering complex needs provision, help for those with NRPF and move-on accommodation pathways for those with lower support needs. We will continue to work with the local organisations that form the Hackney Homelessness Partnership to ensure partners are kept up to date and involved in this process.
The Council is also calling on local registered providers - such as housing associations and landlords, including private landlords - to help by providing suitable properties so that we have accommodation available for those who need it.
Our street outreach team and partners from across the homelessness partnership have done an incredible job at finding emergency accommodation and supporting residents off the streets. While this has been a very challenging process, one of the positive outcomes has been seeing some of our longest standing rough sleepers accept help and support.
The government has a once in a lifetime opportunity to end homelessness right now, and we’ve been very clear about how they can go about that: through additional funding, by considering the needs of those with no recourse to public funds, and understanding that an integrated approach is needed - rough sleeping is complex and cannot be solved by accommodation alone.
As a Council we know that we can’t sit back and wait for the Government task force to report back, so we have a working group that is putting in place longer term options; we’ve block booked hotel accommodation and are considering on a case-by-case basis the support each individual will need moving forward. However, we must be clear that we cannot do this alone - we need the government to stand up and guarantee that ‘everybody in’ means ‘everybody in for good’.
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