19th July 2017
By Rashleigh MacFarlane
Cornwall Council and central government have found £1.1 million to help ease the county’s rough sleeping crisis.
Cornwall has been steadily climbing up the “league of shame” of local council areas and is now third-worst in England. At the last count there were nearly 100 people sleeping rough – although experts agree that this official statistic is almost certainly an under-estimate, as it reflects only those cases known to officials.
Cornwall’s current crisis followed a steady reduction in the cash spent on tackling the issue. The next set of official statistics is due in January.
This is how the council unveiled its new strategy. The proof of the pudding, etc, will come in January
The new “multi-agency rough sleeper reduction strategy” aims to prevent rough sleeping by helping those most at risk through the offer of quick access to housing, help and support to get off the streets and identification of “entrenched” rough sleepers to help them off the streets permanently.
The strategy will be delivered by Cornwall Council, Cornwall Housing Ltd, Coastline Housing, Voluntary Sector Providers, Safer Cornwall, the Drug and Alcohol Action Team, Devon & Cornwall Police, Public Health (including Mental Health Services) and Inclusion Cornwall.
The strategy is backed by £1.1 million in funding - £850,000 from Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing and £292,000 from a successful bid to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for Nos Da Kernow (No First Night Out).
Cornwall Council Cabinet member for homes Andrew Mitchell said: “It is frightening how quickly someone can find themselves faced with the prospect of sleeping rough. In Cornwall, as in other parts of the country, we have seen an increase in homelessness and the continuing impacts of welfare reform mean that more people are at risk of becoming homeless.
“This new strategy means earlier help to people who are in desperate need of accommodation and support and placing them on a path that will not involve worrying about their safety at night because they are forced to sleep rough.”
The strategy will also see more joined up support from outreach teams, specialist agencies and housing providers for existing rough sleepers many of whom have complex needs and housing histories who need specialist support to help them to move away from the streets permanently.
A key element of the strategy is to provide stable housing to help get people back on their feet, and then provide wraparound support services which people need to keep their housing and avoid becoming homeless again.
The council and its partners have been working on a number of initiatives since September last year to begin the process of reducing rough sleeping in Cornwall, including Nos Da Kernow. This programme involves a team of experienced outreach, housing options and resettlement officers from Cornwall Housing, Coastline and St Petroc’s Society working together to combine knowledge and skills to help those who are facing pressures that could tip them over into rough sleeping. The approach is already making a difference to people like Dave and Louise.
Dave fell into rent arrears after losing his job, he had no relatives or friends to help him and was at serious risk of having to sleep rough. Nos Da Kernow (No First Night Out)) arranged for £300 of the arrears to paid off by a charity and then put together a manageable repayment plan for Dave to re-pay the charity. The landlord was happy with this arrangement and Dave was able to stay in his home.
Louise was sofa surfing after being asked to leave the family home and was referred to Nos Da Kernow, who provided one of the bedspaces attached to the project, which helped Louise move on into supported accommodation and prevented her from having to sleep rough.
“Having a safe and secure place to stay and access to the support they need will help people to start to re-build their lives. This is especially true for some entrenched rough sleepers that have not been able to access or stay in housing in the past because of their sometimes chaotic lifestyle.
“We saw the number of people found sleeping rough on one night drop from 99 last November to 82 in May this year – but we know homelessness can often be hidden and changing this will take time. Partnership working is critical to tackling this national problem,” Councillor Mitchell said.
Another key element of the strategy is the ‘Housing First’ approach which provides independent, stable housing as the foundation for enabling people with multiple and complex needs to then receive wrap around services and get their lives back on track. Two additional outreach workers alongside the existing St Petroc’s team are now in place to work with rough sleepers and to develop a ‘Housing First’ approach in Cornwall.
St Petroc’s Chief Executive Steve Ellis said: “St Petroc’s look forward to working together with our colleagues at Cornwall Council, Coastline and other partners to reduce the number of homeless across the county. The new early intervention service will, I am sure, have a significant impact in the coming months.”
Cornwall Housing’s Director of Housing Options, Cathy Hadfield said: “This is a great example of working together in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping head on. The strong focus on prevention and early intervention is key. The earlier we are able to assist someone the better chance we have of preventing the next step resulting in sleeping rough.”
People at risk of homelessness or worried about their housing situation can contact the advice team at Cornwall Housing on 0300 1234 161.
Members of the public who have concerns about a rough sleeper in their area should go to the Streetlink website or phone Streetlink on 0300 500 0914. The rough sleeper will be contacted by the Street Outreach Team within 24 hours and offered advice, assistance and support to find accommodation.
People who wish to donate should give directly to one of the organisations officially helping people, such as St Petroc’s.