Homelessness and Rough sleeping
Many of us are used to seeing rough sleepers as they are called on our local streets outside the local supermarkets and in local shopping centres. They are usually known for begging and I have seen some being abused or being abusive to others. They were once considered normal individuals and life circumstances may have led to them being homeless. Many years ago, I remember a case of the rough sleeper who became homeless because of a relationship breakup and had to leave his former home he shared with his partner. He subsequently suffered a bereavement and then began using drugs. He was eventually placed in temporary accommodation by a local authority because of his lifestyle, he would lose the placement and several others because of his behaviour. He would disappear from his accommodation for a few months and then reappear, this pattern of behaviour continued for a couple of years he died due to health conditions exacerbated by his lifestyle. It is important to remember that for every rough sleeper you see that this is not the way they started out in life and every rough sleeper has a story behind them.
Who are rough sleepers?
For the purposes of conducting rough sleeping street counts and evidence-based estimates, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) defines rough sleepers as:
1. People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or bedded down in the open air (such as on the street, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments).
2. People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes” which are makeshift shelters often comprised of cardboard boxes).
What is homelessness?
The legal definition of homelessness is that a household has no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available and reasonable to occupy. This may also include people who are unable to remain in their homes because of domestic violence or because the home is unsuitable as a result of disrepair.
What are the causes of rough sleeping and homelessness?
Public Health England have a particularly useful table, which identifies the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping.
In London most surprisingly Westminster, has an average house sale price of just over £3 million. Ironically, Westminster is an area of huge contrasts from Buckingham Palace- home to the Queen, one of the world’s richest women but has the UK’s highest number of homeless people. The borough, which includes the seat of the national Parliament is recorded as the 134th most deprived area in the country, according to the latest government data has the highest number of rough sleepers. Below is the Public Health records detailing the top 10 boroughs with the highest rough sleepers.
The governments response
In January, the National Audit Office called on the government to review its rough sleeping strategy considering the figures from Everyone In, claiming it was “out of step” with the problem.
Luke Hall the Minister for Local government and Homelessness announced the governments everyone in policy Everyone In was an emergency scheme launched in March 2020 as the pandemic hit the country. A letter was sent by the government’s former homelessness tsar to all local authorities in England one day after prime minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown.
The letter instructed councils to find self-contained accommodation for all rough sleepers, as well as people living in hostels and shelters. The task was huge, with councils asked to get thousands of people off the streets in a space of a few days.
More than 15,000 people have been housed in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, student accommodation and emergency Bed and Breakfast (B&Bs), since that letter was sent. The scheme, now officially known as Everyone In, is seen by many as one of the greatest successes of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has released various funding streams to support councils to assist them to house rough sleepers, including £91.5m to help councils fund their individual plans for homeless support over the coming months. Overall, councils in England have received over £700m to help tackle homelessness during 2020-21, including providing accommodation for rough sleepers.
The basic principles of the ‘everyone in’ scheme is to:
On 28 May a further Letter from Luke Hall was sent to all Local Authorities (“Moving onto the next phase of accommodating rough sleepers”): …’It remains important to continue to help and support vulnerable people as the virus continues to pose a risk. As the risk reduces and we look towards easing the lockdown restrictions, we begin to enter the next phase of this endeavour and need to make plans. We must continue to focus on ensuring accommodation and support arrangements can be managed safely to protect the most vulnerable, including those with complex needs. At the same time, we need now to start planning the next steps for accommodating and supporting people to move on from emergency accommodation’.
Local authorities face a huge challenge to try and find accommodation for this complex client group and below is the guidance that has been given to local authorities in relation to the carrying out of assessments.
This letter also included the following:
‘, I ask that you consider the following points closely:
In terms of move-on accommodation all options need to be considered, we ask:
‘That you seek to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family. o That you seek to find as many sustainable move-on options for people as possible. This should begin with an assessment of the availability of stock locally followed, where applicable, by work in partnership with Housing Associations to increase the supply of move-on accommodation available for your COVID-19 response, whether through acquisitions, repair and refurbishment or long-term leasing arrangements. Where appropriate, individuals should be supported to move into the private rented sector. That, where sustainable move-on options aren’t available, you put in place short term accommodation to ensure that people do not have to return to the streets whilst you work to find longer term options for them…’…
For clients from abroad:
What is clear us that despite that despite this initiative and its successes homelessness since 2010 since 2010 the rough sleeping figures has increased by 52% this is very worrying there are agencies that will assist rough sleepers please the information below.
What should you do if you know or see someone who is rough sleeping?
You should contact Streetlink they help to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them. You can contact StreetLink through their website, downloading their mobile app or by telephone. The outreach teams that StreetLink partners with work overnight and in the very early hours to make contact with people where they are sleeping. If you think the person you are concerned about is in immediate danger or needs urgent care, please call 999.
The charity St Mungos provides the No second Night Out service (NSNO) which can refer new rough sleepers to one of three ‘hubs’ for an emergency assessment. Where a person has not slept rough before, the outreach worker may make a referral to a service which aims to secure immediate accommodation, often in the area where the person was previously living, so that they do not have to sleep out again.
Telephone : 0870 383 3333 (24 hour Rough Sleepers Referral Line)
Please share this useful information to support those less fortunate than ourselves all.