E&E | Exeter council to cut back tree after ‘nightmare neighbour’ complaints over rough sleepers



31 January 2017

Exeter council to cut back tree after ‘nightmare neighbour’ complaints over rough sleepers

by Alex Richards

A group of residents have spoken of their ‘nightmare’ ordeal involving a group of rough sleepers under a nearby tree – which is set to be cut back by Exeter council.

Over the past few years, individuals have been congregating and sleeping rough underneath a giant conifer in the once-tranquil graveyard of St Thomas Church, Cowick Street.

Now Exeter City Council will chop lower branches off the towering tree, in an effort to expose them to police patrols on Cowick Street.

Anguished neighbours claim to have witnessed evidence of prostitution, drug use and dealing at the shrouded spot – just metres from many of their windows.

The group has also allegedly intimidated residents, by shining torches at their windows and approaching family members.

All residents involved in this story have chosen to remain anonymous, as they are worried about repercussions from those who have been known to use the spot.

One resident, from Newcastle, lives nearby with his partner and their baby. They say the problems began around two or three days after they moved in.

He has since been in regular contact with the Devon & Cornwall Police regarding the threatening and shocking behaviour from the group under the tree.

And he says it is clear an individual was, at one point, ‘selling their body’ under the tree.

One night, at around 3am, they woke to a woman screaming and shouting: “Where is my £100, I just gave you sex.”

The resident said: “I cannot believe the homelessness and drugs problem in Exeter. In Newcastle the problem does not appear half as bad – it’s so concentrated here.

“We’ll see how it goes but we might have to move in June if it isn’t sorted. Especially with the little one around.”

He added: “Police are pretty limited in what they can do.”

Another nearby resident, a woman who lives on her own, moved into the area in 2015. She says being alone makes her feel more vulnerable.

She said: “It became so intrusive, there is evidence of drug abuse and loud foul language. It went on all night from about 10.30pm.

“One night it went on until 1pm the following day.

“It was distressing and intimidating. Our neighbours moved soon after the trouble began, and it definitely played a part in their decision to leave.

“Nobody should have to deal with it.”

“It is a graveyard, which in itself should be treated with respect.”

She welcomes the council’s decision to cut down branches from the lower half of the tree.

“It will become less of a canopy and police will be able to see them under the tree when going past.”

A City Council spokesman said: “Following complaints of anti-social behaviour, the police have asked us to trim the lower parts of the tree so that any ASB is visible and not concealed.

“This work is scheduled to be carried out soon.”

On his Facebook page St Thomas PCSO, PoliceCommunity Support Officer Will Malcolm added: “We’ve had reports over a month or two about people sleeping under this tree and up to no good.

“Local residents are worried, so got in touch with ECC to see if we can prune the conifer back. All agreed and in their diary to be done.

Further reading:
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Exeter City Council continuing to tackle homelessness in Exeter

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.

Homelessness Link | Homelessness services face uncertain future as rough sleeping figures double

Homeless Link logo Homeless Link tagline

Homelessness services face uncertain future as rough sleeping figures double

Government figures published today show that the number of people who sleep rough each night in England has more than doubled since 2010. Homeless Link believes the numbers could have been much higher without the support, innovation and adaptability of the homelessness sector.

According to the statistics, 3,569 people were estimated by local authorities to be sleeping rough on any one night in 2015. This represents a 30% increase on the 2014 estimate of 2,744, and a 102% increase since 2010, when the figure stood at 1,768.

However, without the critical support and temporary accommodation offered by homelessness services across England, Homeless Link believes this number could have been much higher.

The South West has seen the biggest percentage increase in rough sleeping since last year (41%). This is followed by the East of England (38%), the South East (36%) and the West Midlands (34%), all of which have seen increases in rough sleeping above the national average.

Responding to the rise in rough sleeping, Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of umbrella body Homeless Link, said:

“It is understandable that many people will focus exclusively on today’s latest statistic, but it’s worth considering how much higher that figure might have been without the support and innovation of frontline homelessness services. When the right local services are in place to help people off the streets as quickly as possible, we know it is possible to turn this situation around.”

In 2012, the Government called on every local authority to adopt the No Second Night Out standard by developing services to help people off the streets quickly. This was backed by £20m in grants for local homelessness charities over three years. This funding came to an end last March, but before it did, 13,900 people were helped off the streets before they spent a second night out, while 29,000 people at risk of homelessness were helped before they slept rough. Overall, almost 64,000 people were helped.

While Homeless Link welcomes the Government taking steps to protect funding for homelessness, the future for many homelessness services locally remains uncertain. They face a range of pressures, including reduced local authority funding, substantial changes to the welfare system and a housing crisis in many parts of the country. When combined, these factors present a clear threat to our vision of ending homelessness through innovative homelessness services.

Rick Henderson went on to say:

“It is unacceptable that anyone has to sleep rough in Britain today – and even more shocking that the number of people in this situation has risen every year since 2010. Unfortunately, many homelessness charities have already seen their funding fall as demand for help rises.

“Homelessness is costly and damaging to individuals and society, but we know that when national and local government have the right vision and strategy in place and invest in the right services, rough sleeping need not be inevitable.”

Explore rough sleeping trends in your area since 2010 with our live tables on rough sleeping.

Rough sleeping - Data for Exeter
Rough sleeping – Data for Exeter 2010-15

You may also like Rough sleeping – our analysis
Our analysis of numbers and trends around people who sleep rough in England.


E&E | Exeter aims to bring more rough sleepers in from the cold

E&E logo 01
21 November 2015

Exeter aims to bring more rough sleepers in from the cold

New steps are being taken to help bring Exeter’s rough sleepers in from the cold.

Exeter City Council is gearing up to the winter with an action plan to which will see 26 spaces to accommodate rough sleepers from December 1 to February 28 – , including specific provision for women.

The City Council is working in partnership with a number of groups including the police and St Petrock’s to offer a safe place to sleep for those with no other options available.

Since 2010 there has been a yearly increase in the numbers of people rough sleeping in England. In Exeter last year there was an increase of 48per cent.

City Council Leader, Pete Edwards, said: “‘We are committed to reversing this trend by tackling the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping, although it will be an ongoing challenge.

“We recognise that many people who are homeless have complex issues. We are trying to work creatively with partner agencies to offer a safe place to sleep and the right support to get people through the winter.”

Agencies will work together with the homeless, focussing on longer term plans, and in a specific place rather than trying to meet up on the street.

It is hoped that this will help those who may have refused to ‘come inside’ and help manage anti-social behaviour within the city. Clients with no local connection will be offered reconnection services so that the provision is linked to local demand.

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.

Julian House | Exeter Assertive Homeless Outreach


01 October 2015

New contract for Julian House |Exeter Assertive Homeless Outreach

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded a contract to deliver an outreach service to rough sleepers and people leading street-based lifestyles across Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge.

Starting today, the fully-funded 30 month contract, awarded by Exeter City Council, has the key aim of supporting rough sleepers off the streets and linking them in with homeless agencies across the area.

In line with national homeless policy, where an individual has no family or historical connection to the area, efforts will be made to reconnect them with their former place of residence.

We will transfer our wealth of experience of working with this very marginalised client group and make a positive impact on moving individuals from, sometimes, very chaotic lifestyles into settled accommodation where support at the right level is accessible.

Our Operations Director, John Isserlis, is excited at the prospect of the new service. “The value of an effective outreach service cannot be understated. As we know, living on the streets is a very dangerous existence. Many of those who are forced to do so are very vulnerable. Some have addiction issues, typically more than 60% will have mental health problems and they are at increased risk of violence. That’s on top of the risk from hypothermia.”

“Every client will be different. Some will be cautious about engaging with outreach staff. But, we know from experience if you get alongside them and understand their individual issues the prospects for getting them off the streets and reconnected with mainstream society are significantly improved.”

Based at the new Exeter CVS Hub and with satellite bases in East Devon and Teignbridge, Julian House outreach staff will work closely with local agencies and service providers, including church based projects, identifying individuals on the streets.

We will also respond promptly to alerts from the public who are encouraged to use the national report a rough sleeper hotline (0300 500 0914).

Alongside providing support, Julian House has a key role to play in building local partnerships to address anti-social behaviour and nuisance that impacts on the whole community and can create a very negative impression of all rough sleepers.

John Isserlis was keen to emphasise the role of the public in assisting this very vulnerable group. “The outreach team will quite quickly build up a good picture of numbers and popular locations where rough sleepers are located but with the best will in the world they cannot cover every park bench or sea front quiet place. This is where the public can provide valuable information – that could literally save a life.”

More from their website

Their aims and objectives are a  vision ‘for a just society where socially excluded people are supported and empowered to build sustainable independent lives’ and our aim ‘to be the lead provider and major influence in the development of lasting solutions to homelessness in the communities where we work’.

Julian House are the lead provider of assertive homeless outreach services in Bath & North East Somerset., where their year strategy focusses on developing new homelessness services within our target geographical areas. The board has invested significant resources from reserves to achieve this.

Julian House have the capacity, experience and expertise to deliver an effective operational, strategic and community response to rough sleeping across Exeter, Teignbridge and East Devon, which will be sustained over the contract term and beyond; building a lasting legacy for the Locality Area.

They are very clear in how they would be addressing roughsleeping in the City and will be more robust in ensuring that they are able to deliver. They will also have a member of staff based at the police station and will be working closely with the police and the community and businesses.

It is hoped that hey will deliver a reduction in the number of roughsleepers in the City, unless of course other factors cause a significant increase in homelessness nationally ( ie universal credit/ welfare reform/ pressure of debt/ breakdown etc)






38 Degrees | ECC’s plans for Rough Sleepers in freezing conditions

I, and many other Councillors have been contacted by residents via the 38 Degrees campaign regarding rough sleeping in current freezing conditions.

Tonight, people without a home may need to sleep out in the freezing cold, desperately trying to keep warm on the street. It’ll be below zero – and that might mean not waking up in the morning.

When the weather gets this cold, local councils are meant to activate an emergency plan to find people sleeping rough and get them into the warm. Some councils are moving fast to save lives. But others may be dragging their heels instead of working quickly to find the people in danger.

If your local councillors aren’t doing much, lots of emails from 38 Degrees members asking about the emergency plan could be the kick they need to start making urgent phone calls.

This has prompted several e-mails along the lines of:

Hundreds of people with no home are facing another night out in the bitter cold. As my councillor can you let me know what plans you have in place to get homeless people off the freezing streets? 

I know that an emergency plan is meant to be activated to find people sleeping rough and get them into the warm, so I just wanted to check exactly what was being done. 

Please act quickly to make sure no one has to sleep on a freezing dark street again tonight.

This is my usual response:

Many thanks for your e-mail.

As a fellow supporter of many 38Degrees campaigns I am well aware of the immense impact these sorts of mailing campaigns achieve.

I share your concerns, not least because of the recent tragic death of Michelle Conroy in Exeter.

The staff in the Housing Team at Exeter City Council work in partnership with a number of different agencies and charities to assist people sleeping rough in the city.

I attended a recent briefing for councillors on the wide range of interventions we can provide.

Exeter is signed up to the No Second Night Out Campaign. The number to alert the authorities to someone sleeping rough is 0800 151 3441. I and a number of the councillors who attended the briefing have this programmed into our phones.

I am happy to advise you that here in Exeter, the City Council have the following accommodation provision in place during the severe weather.
– 7 Bed spaces at Gabriel House, which is our main hostel
– 9 bed spaces at St Petrocks, which is the roughsleeper day centre on Cathedral Green
– 3 bed spaces for women at the Esther Community

All of these spaces are funded by the City Council jointly with our partners to make sure no-one is left outside.

We are also providing temporary accommodation to 4 individuals whose needs are not able to be met at the accommodation set out above.

The Street Homeless Outreach Team [SHOT] have been working closely with St Petrocks, the city’s soup kitchens and churches to contact anyone new to the street so they don’t have to stay out.

I can assure you that no-one needs to be outside in this weather.

Having said that there are a smmall number of people with what can only be described as chaotic lifestyles who will not necessarily readily accept offers of help. This doesn’t stop us trying but we cannot force someone to take up an offer of accommodation.However we continue to make offers every day to urge them to come inside.

This is an extract from the City Council’s Housing Manager in reply to a similar question asked a few weeks ago. I hope that this helps to re-assure you.

Firstly, we operate a Winter Weather protocol which makes sure that accommodation is available to all rough sleepers in temperatures of zero or below. We provide this in partnership with the voluntary sector by opening up additional bed spaces in the city. Following the recent tragic events we have decided to extend that provision to cover all severe weather conditions and not just cold weather.

Secondly, the longer term issue is becoming increasingly challenging with homelessness increasing both in the city and nationally.

Exeter is the lead authority for Devon and Cornwall in implementing the No Second Night agenda which is being promoted by Central Government. As part of this commitment we respond to all reports of rough sleeping within 48 hours (in reality this is within 12 hours). Contact is made and an offer of accommodation is made where appropriate; however it may not always be appropriate if the person has had accommodation which they have been asked to leave or if they choose to remain sleeping rough.

We are looking at additional accommodation options to meet the increasing demand, and these need to be planned in partnership to make sure support is available to accompany the housing offer. We are also strengthening our reconnections service where people have come to Exeter from other parts of the country to seek housing and we can then help them to safely return to the place they have left by working with the city’s soup kitchens to reach people as soon as they come to the city.

We have also committed additional resources, in partnership with Devon County Council, to an individual budgets approach to working with very entrenched rough sleepers where a really creative approach is required as all other offers of accommodation have failed or been refused.

If you would like to know more about the service we provide please click on the following link: http://www.exeter.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=14429

We are hoping that our other housing initiatves will help deal with other aspects of homelessness, such as sofa surfing and with luck assist those under threat of future homelessness. An axample of such a move was discussed at an Executive Committee meeting on Monday.

Reports presented to the meeting can be seen at:

The decisions taken by the Executive can be seen here:

I will endeavour to ensure we remain pro-active in all aspects of homelessness

I hope this  provides you with the reassurance you need, and many thanks for your interest in this area.

SW Councils | New 24-Hour Hotline for Devon & Cornwall Aims To Reduce Rough Sleeping

SW Councils

01 May 2012

New 24-Hour Hotline for Devon & Cornwall Aims To Reduce Rough Sleeping

In November, 181 people were sleeping rough across Devon and Cornwall. Each week about 20 people are spotted sleeping rough across the region for the first time. The figure tends to rise during the summer months.

The hotline is being run by 11 local authorities and nine voluntary organisations across the two counties. Called the Devon and Cornwall Rough Sleeping Parnership (DCRSP), the initiative has won £600,000 government funding, and focuses primarily on those who find themselves rough sleeping for the first time.

The Devon and Cornwall approach is tied into a national initiative called No Second Night Out (NSNO), and aims to put an end to rough sleeping across the two counties. NSNO aims to prevent someone new to rough sleeping from spiralling downwards into a long-term life on the streets where they are vulnerable crime, drugs and alcohol and at a high risk of serious illness and potentially early death.

The west country initiative is being led by Exeter City Council, with the 24-hour hotline being manned within the city.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, Lead Councillor for Housing and Community Involvement, said:

“By the end of 2012, it is the aim of the group that no individual arriving on the streets of a town, village or city throughout Devon and Cornwall will need to sleep out for a second night.

“This approach is already working successfully in London and Liverpool and leaflets and posters are now being distributed around the two counties to draw people’s attention to the initiative and how they can help make a difference.

“We will ensure that there is a rapid response to new rough sleepers and will provide an offer that means they do not need to endure another night out in the open.”

All authorities within the partnership are committed to end rough sleeping in the region.

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Homesless Transitition Fund: A year of Transition – Innovations to end rough sleeping [May 2013]

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St Petrock“Help  to  Move  on”: An  Evaluation  Of  Exeter’s No  Second  Night  Out  Project [November 2014]