Exeter Night Shelter providing refuge from the cold

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Media release | For immediate release

Exeter Night Shelter providing refuge from the cold

Exeter’s night shelter has been declared a success just weeks after opening its doors to rough sleepers.

In three weeks, more than 300 bed spaces have been filled by the Safe Sleep initiative, with on average 20 rough sleepers a night taking advantage of the facilities.

Homelessness provider Julian House is running the 40-bed facility in Market Street in conjunction with the City Council. The service operates between 8:30pm and 8:00am each night offering safe secure accommodation for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets of Exeter. The service is staffed overnight, with a minimum of two staff on at all times, and will be open until the start of March.

Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor of Customer Access, said it was extremely heartening to see the night shelter being so well received, especially during the recent cold spell.

“The number of people using the shelter has grown from nine on the first night to 28 at the end of December, as word has spread and rough sleepers have become aware of its existence,” she said.
Just shortly before the shelter opened on 21 December, it was estimated that around 40 people were sleeping rough on Exeter’s streets.

“You can’t persuade everyone to come inside but with a night shelter offering 40 bed spaces, there is no need for anyone to be sleeping out in these conditions,” said Cllr Morse.

“Of course we understand that many of those sleeping rough have complex issues and that is the challenge we share with our partners, to address these issues and find them a more permanent roof over their head.

“Safe Sleep is a great opportunity to help people out during the cold winter months but we realise that it is not the solution. The City Council is committed to reducing homelessness and we are constantly looking at opportunities to bring on line additional accommodation and support.

“We are working with Private Landlords and other providers to lease houses and form a shared house network across the city.”

Any private landlord who would be interested in working with the Council to reduce homelessness in the city should contact 01392 265685.

LGA First Magazine | Helping the homeless

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No.606 | December 2016

Helping the homeless

A wider housing strategy is needed to deliver on the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s aims

Rough sleeper outside ECC

Ever since the draft Homeless Reduction Bill was published in Parliament in October, the LGA has worked hard to influence proposals within it and highlight concerns that without a wider housing strategy the Bill would not achieve its aim of reducing homelessness

The Private Member’s Bill – being led by Bob Blackman MP – proposes to extend the duties on local authorities to prevent and relieve homelessness.

Councils want to end homelessness and are already doing everything they can with existing resources to prevent and tackle it. However, the LGA has warned there is no silver bullet, and councils alone cannot tackle rising homelessness.

The causes of of homelessness are many and varied, ranging from financial to social, and councils were concerned the original draft Bill was undeliverable and would not achieve its outcomes.

LGA engagement with Government officials and Bob Blackman ahead of the final Bill being published has led to a series of positive changes. This has helped shape it into a more realistic piece of legislation that is more workable for councils to meet the needs of vulnerable people.

This included the removal of the 56-day accommodation duty for those with nowhere to stay, as there is an insufficient supply of suitable accommodation to discharge this duty.

The requirement to recognise an expired section 21 notice [issued by landlords to evict tenants] as proof of homelessness was replaced with a more flexible requirement in line with existing statutory guidance.

The LGA has been clear from the outset that all new duties proposed in the Bill will also need to be fully funded. As a result of this lobbying, the Government committed to fully funding the new duties under the New Burdens Doctrine when the Bill received its Second Reading in October.

The sector continues to press the case for sufficient funding from the Government to successfully deliver responsibilities.

It wants the Government to commit to undertaking a comprehensive review of the bill’s impact after a year of implementation to ensure that it is achieving its objectives and that councils are being properly funded.

it is clear that legislative change alone will not resolve homelessness.

Homelessness is spreading across all areas of the country. The number of households local authorities have been forced to place in temporary accommodation has risen by 48% since 2010, while rough sleeping has doubled.

This crisis is spreading nationwide. Since 2010, the use of temporary accommodation has gone up 44% in London and 58% across the rest of England.

Councils also need powers and funding to address the widening gap between incomes and rents, resume their historic role as a major builder of new affordable homes and join up all local services – such as health, justice and skills.

This is the only way to deliver on the national ambition to address the causes of homelessness and prevent it happening in the first place.

E&E | A city of fine flats and freezing tents

E&E
17 October 2016
OPINION by editor Patrick Phelvin

A city of fine flats and freezing tents

Recently I arrived early to open up the Echo‘s offices to find 2 homeless people blocking the door and having a violent row.

Both were under the influence of either drink or drugs and, although they moved out the way when I asked, it was a nasty situation.

Other businesses in the city centre have had much worse. Discarded needles and faeces are common problems, threats of violence are rare but have been reported.

In the midst of this we must not forget, though, that we are dealing with some of society’s most vulnerable people. Scratch the surface and tales of mental illness, broken relationships and substance abuse are behind most of the faces we see on our streets.

The Council is keen on developing long-term solutions – and is hoping to go beyond its statutory requirement to provide immediate shelter to homeless people once the temperature dips below freezing for 3 nights in a row.

But a deal to provide a building for a more urgent requirement has fallen through, and now the Echo, with its Give Me Shelter campaign, is calling on the city’s great and good to help out.

Perhaps there’s a disused warehouse that could be converted, an old block of University accommodation standing idle, or a church room that could be used?

I am sure that a quick solution to this must exist, and the fortunate can come up with an answer to the problems of the less lucky.

If we don’t, will be the city with smart restaurants, luxury penthouse flats and £9,000-a-year serviced student apartments for our elite, while poor people are dying in tents.

That’s not an Exeter I recognise or want to be a part of.

The language of homelessness

It is important that we are clear about the language of homelessness – throughout my writing on this blog , and elsewhere, I will try to use the following terms:

Ambulant begging – The practice of walking up to people to ask for money, as opposed to static begging. Can be an unintended consequence of enforcement action taken against the more visible practice of static begging.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) – is defined as “Behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the person”. (Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 & Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011)

Assertive outreach – A way of engaging clients and organising and delivering care via a specialised team to provide intensive, highly-coordinated assessment, referral and flexible support. Characterised by a persistent, long-term presence and approach to building relationships.

Begging – Asking people for money, and in this context includes behaviours which include poor-quality busking, crafts etc.

Designing-out – Adapting, changing and designing the built environment to deter behaviours that are deemed undesirable or anti-social. (E.g. removing benches in areas frequented by street drinkers, gating shop doorways to prevent rough sleeping etc.)

Enforcement – Assertive and potentially punitive actions under legislative powers designed to deter, prevent, disrupt or punish crime and anti-social behaviour.

Exit offer – A comprehensive and accessible range of responsive, flexible social support – delivered within a multi-agency framework – designed to meet an individual’s multiple and complex needs at the same time, in order to achieve a sustainable exit from street-attached lifestyles.

High-yield [begging] sites – Locations with a built environment that are sites of repeat begging activity because they are perceived to be particularly lucrative. Examples include ATMs, night-time economy venues, and outside shops of a particularly high footfall.

Homeless – “You should be considered homeless if you have no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available for you to occupy. You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless.” (Shelter.) People may still be considered homeless who are living in squats, in temporary arrangements with friends / family with no long-term prospect of settled accommodation, etc.

Multiple and complex needs – The experience of several problems at the same time, such as mental ill-health, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, offending, and family breakdown. People with multiple and complex needs may have ineffective contact with services that are designed to deal with one problem at a time, and are are often trapped living chaotic lives.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – also called “legal highs”, NPS are defined by the present government as, “‘Psychoactive drugs, newly available in the UK, which are not prohibited by the United Nations Drug Conventions but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions.’ They are currently legally available in retail shops and through online distributors, but are the subject of draft legislation. (Psychoactive Substances Bill, 2015-16)

Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) – A public spaces protection order is an order that identifies a specific public place and gives powers to the local authority to prohibit specified behaviours in the restricted area and/or requires specified things to be done by persons carrying on specified activities in that area. The order may not have effect for more than 3 years and the Local Authority must consult with the chief officer of the police and the local policing body before issuing the order.Failure to comply with a public spaces protection order is an offence. Exeter City Council is currently consulting about imposing a PSPO in the city centre.[1]

Rough sleeping – Also called “street homelessness”, a type of homelessness where an individual quite literally is reduced to living and sleeping in open, public spaces – whether through circumstances or choice. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse, and they are also in greater danger of violence, suicide and premature death than the general population.

Sex work – The exchange of sexual services for material compensation – and this can include cash, accommodation, and drugs / alcohol. Sex work is usually grouped as indoor (escorting, massage parlours, brothels) or on-street (outdoor), with the latter being considered far more risky, and associated with more chaotic lifestyles. Exeter has little or no on-street sex industry.

Shoplifting – An acquisitive crime that occurs when someone steals merchandise offered for sale in a retail store. Repeat and prolific shoplifting behaviour can be associated with class A drug use, and some police forces are reporting increases in shoplifting caused by destitution.

Street activity – A broad, generic term for a range of street-based anti-social behaviour, including rough sleeping, begging, street drinking etc.

Street-attachment – A term that recognises the “pull” that street-based lifestyles and peer relationships may have on individuals – including those that are now housed. “Street-attached” individuals may still spent significant periods of time on the street, remain part of street communities, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street community / street population – A broad term for groups of people who are street-attached, and engage in street-based anti-social behaviour.

Street drinking – Consumption of (often high-strength) alcohol in a public setting outside of licensed premises. Street drinking can be associated with increased anti-social behaviour, litter, and aggression.

Vulnerably housed – A term for people who are technically housed, but where their accommodation is sub-standard, not sustainable or otherwise not assured, or where it is not suitable to their needs or possibly even detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

[1] http://exeter.gov.uk/pspo/