Nottingham City Council and a range of partners have got measures in place to provide support and accommodation for people presenting as rough sleepers on the city’s streets this winter.
Every year, the council leads a multi-agency group, including Framework Housing Association, Emmanuel House, hostels and local churches, to develop a cold weather plan which aims to prevent and respond to rough sleeping, as well as reducing the risks to the health and well-being of those who sleep on the streets during winter months. Its arrangements are put in place from October to March – with extra safeguards in place when temperatures fall below zero, such as opening rooms at the London Road fire station to provide temporary support and shelter to those who have rejected offers of help. Last year, the winter arrangements helped prevent 258 people from sleeping rough.
Nationally and locally, the number of people found sleeping rough has gone up – with figures in Nottingham on any given night going up from 35 in 2016 to 43 in 2017. Government welfare reforms, Government cuts to council budgets and a lack of affordable housing have been cited as some reasons for the increase – with local numbers having risen from just three in 2010 before austerity measures were introduced.
The council has committed to long-term funding for work throughout the year aiming to prevent homelessness happening in the first place and has invested £4m this year alone in housing-related support to prevent and relieve homelessness. The council is using all available Government funding to help its ongoing drive to tackle homelessness and meet its new obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act. The council has also been successful in bidding for Government money to help deliver measures to tackle rough sleeping. In 2018/19, the city’s bid resulted in an award of over £420,000, which is in part being used to help fund extra bed spaces at additional venues that have been identified to cope with higher demand.
Measures contained within the Cold Weather Plan include:
- Providing enough bed spaces to meet expected demand each night including provision at the Winter Shelter operated by Emmanuel House and extra beds split between two hostel properties
- Opening a ‘sit up’ service in partnership with Nottinghamshire Fire Service when the temperature drops to zero degrees. This will be staffed by volunteers from The Red Cross, Muslim Hands, Nottingham City Council and the University of Nottingham
- Offering drug and alcohol misuse advice and treatment through a drug outreach team (Nottingham Recovery Network), helping Framework outreach on evening shifts (Monday-Thursday)
- Offering drug and alcohol treatment through a new detox clinic. Those with no recourse to public funds can attend the clinic and subsequently gain support to reconnect to their country of origin
- Helping vulnerable people work towards long-term housing solutions through additional outreach workers (staffed by Framework)
- Operating drop-in clinics and outreach through a CityCare nurse-led team providing practical healthcare, assessment, treatment, advice and support to those who are homeless, in hostel accommodation or vulnerably housed in Nottingham, and signposting homeless people to drop-in clinics
- Working to prevent homelessness among people with drug and alcohol problems who are ‘sofa surfing’ and have the potential to end up on the streets, or are vulnerably housed and having difficulties sustaining their tenancies
- Identifying anyone sleeping rough and helping anyone at risk to access support and accommodation through the council’s Community Protection Officers, and on Friday and Saturday nights Street Pastors from city churches
- Asking supported accommodation providers to take steps to reduce the risks of an individual losing a placement and becoming street homeless.
Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing, Councillor Linda Woodings, said: “We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of people ending up homeless and despite Government cutbacks, remain committed to providing all the support we can for them throughout the year and especially over the winter.
“Last year our work with Framework, Emmanuel House, British Red Cross, Notts Fire and Rescue and other local organisations meant that 258 people were taken off the streets and into accommodation through the additional measures put in place over the winter period. Many, many more are supported through the year-round work. You may still see people on the streets as although all are offered support, for a variety of complex reasons some don’t accept it. Others may be people who beg who are not homeless. We would urge anyone who wants to help to donate to charities who are in a position to provide the best support.”
Dennis Tully from Emmanuel House said: “With no sign of a reduction in the national pressures that cause homelessness we remain as committed as ever in providing the Nottingham Winter Shelter. The purpose of the Shelter is to provide a very temporary safe bed and to support people to find more permanent accommodation solutions.
“Last year 69 people were moved out of rough sleeping through the Winter Shelter and we aim to be equally effective this year. We are positive about the collective approach across the city regarding the issue of rough sleeping, which brings mutual added value to each initiative.”
Anyone who sees a rough sleeper should contact Framework so they can offer support, on 0800 066 5356 (24/7, free from landlines and mobiles)