Exeter City Council continuing to tackle homelessness in Exeter
>Exeter City Council today reaffirmed its commitment to tackling homelessness in the city.
The Council has been working closely with a wide range of partners to reduce the numbers of people sleeping on the streets.
Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor for Customer Access, said: “At one point a few months ago, we estimated that there were around 60 people sleeping on the streets but we have been working with our Outreach Team from Julian House and other partners, and the annual return now confirms this figure has been reduced to 41.
“Just in the last quarter, we have had good outcomes reconnecting 12 people back into homes in other areas. This is a positive sign that by working together, we can begin to make a difference.”
Cllr Morse said that whilst the ultimate aim was to end rough sleeping in the city, this was a challenging national issue, with cities such as Bristol and Oxford seeing an increase in numbers over recent years.
In 2014, the official number sleeping on the streets in Bristol was 41, but in 2015 this was up to 97, an increase of 137%.
Oxford has also seen a rise in the number of homeless people sleeping rough on city streets in the last year. During an annual count in 2015, 39 people were found sleeping on the streets of Oxford, up by 50% from 26 in 2014.
“We can’t be complacent,” said Cllr Morse, “We must continue to reach out to those without a home or who find it difficult to maintain their accommodation.”
With weather conditions getting colder, the City Council is looking to open a new night shelter in the city in preparation for the winter months. A potential building has been identified in Market Street after a long search supported by the Express & Echo. However Planning permission is needed for change of use as it is currently a retail premises. This decision will be considered by the Council’s Planning Committee for a change of use.
If given the go-ahead, the City Council will work closely with Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, NHS, Devon and Cornwall Police and local providers BCHA, Julian House and St Petrock’s to offer a safe place to sleep for those with no other options available. A number of spaces to accommodate rough sleepers will be available from mid-December through to 28 February, including specific provision for women.
Safe Sleep is a proactive approach, building on a requirement by government under Severe Weather Provision, where additional spaces are only offered whenever the temperature drops below zero for three or more nights. With the possibility of snow and freezing weather there are serious concerns for rough sleepers as there is a real risk to their health.
Once again, the winter gives providers the opportunity to work together in a more co-ordinated way with this hard-to-reach group. Julian House (Street Outreach Contract) are central to the success of the scheme and are undertaking to work with other providers to help ensure easy flow into the accommodation and support to manage those moving through into longer-term options.
Safe Sleep places will be in addition to services already provided at BCHA’s Gabriel House hostel and the St Petrock’s Resource Centre in the city, with support of the Assertive Homeless Outreach Team from Julian House. The Safe-Sleep project will provide bed spaces alongside use of the City Council’s temporary accommodation stock, where appropriate.
The project includes support alongside a place to sleep with the intention of being able to offer as many ongoing accommodation placements as possible by the end of February.