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.
Safe Sleep Exeter helps homeless people through the winter
Homeless people sleeping rough in Exeter and East Devon have been given a helping hand into accommodation this winter through the Safe Sleep Exeter 2016 scheme.
The Safe Sleep Exeter project saw an additional 26 bed spaces opened in the city between 1 December and 29 February to provide shelter from the cold and severe weather.
In total, 1,235 bed spaces were provided during the scheme, assisting 82 homeless people to be accommodated, with 45 moving on to more settled accommodation at the end.
The scheme was made possible by a partnership approach by Exeter City Council, St Petrocks, BCHA, and Julian House. Funding was also contributed by East Devon Council, Devon County Council, and Devon and Cornwall Police.
As a result of the positive outcomes from Safe Sleep, Exeter City Council is funding eight bed spaces with BCHA in newly furnished dormitory style rooms to continue the provision of fast access shelter for homeless people as a stepping stone to accommodation.
Emma Morse, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Customer Access, said: “This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved to help homeless people when we work together. We are very lucky to have services dedicated to helping the homeless in the city and look forward to further projects to help as stated in our draft homelessness strategy.”
Mel Hartley, Project Manager from St Petrocks, said:
“We were delighted when Exeter City Council announced it would fund a Safe Sleep service for three months from December 1. We were very fortunate to have the commitment from our staff and volunteers who never missed any of the 91 nights.”
“From the start, all agencies recognised that this service could only be effective if offers of accommodation were made and we’re really encouraged that agencies, including our own Private Rented Service and Exeter City Council were able to deliver on this. This service not only saves lives but importantly is now proven to provide a vital route for rough sleepers into accommodation.”
David Twomey, Project Leader at Gabriel House, BCHA, said:
“We are very grateful to the residents and staff of Gabriel House, without whom we would not have been able to provide this vital assistance over the winter period . Their help and goodwill throughout the three months allowed the communal areas of the hostel to be used to provide shelter for the most vulnerable and supported people to move on into more permanent accommodation.”
Brett Sentence, Service Manager, Assertive Homeless Outreach Team, said: “This has provided a wonderful platform for working in Partnership to help rough sleepers towards accommodation and a more settled future.”