ECC Media Release | Exeter night shelter gets the go-ahead

Exeter night shelter gets the go-ahead

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There’s good news for people sleeping rough on the streets in Exeter this winter, with a night shelter set to open.

The shelter in Market Street, Exeter, is expected to open at the weekend and will be run by Julian House as part of the Safe Sleep initiative.

The green light was given by Exeter City Council’s planning committee, where an application for a change of use for the premises was last night (Monday 5 December) granted unanimously. The building will now be used for rough sleepers to shelter overnight from harsh winter weather, up until the end of February.

John Isserlis, Operations Director at Julian House, said last night’s decision means they can now focus on getting people out of the cold and into safe and warm accommodation when the temperature plummets.

“There was a real concern that if we hadn’t been able to secure the night shelter, someone was going to die on Exeter’s streets this winter. It’s already happened this week in Birmingham where a rough sleeper has frozen to death on the streets.

Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor for Customer Access, said: “We have been looking for a location for some time after another location fell through. If we hadn’t got Market Street, the reality is that there was no alternative waiting in the wings and the night shelter just wouldn’t have happened.”

The City Council is committed to tackling homelessness in the city and works closely with a wide range of partners to reduce the numbers of people sleeping on the streets.

Just recently the Council announced the number of rough sleepers in the city had reduced from 60 to 41.

Cllr Morse added: “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.”

The City Council will be working 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.

The Council and Julian House continue to be committed to working closely with nearby residents and businesses to ensure that concerns are heard and responded to.