Published 30th June 2020
Almost 50 former rough sleepers have now been settled in permanent accommodation following on from temporary housing during coronavirus.
On 23rd March the Government issued a directive to all local authorities to temporarily house all rough sleepers during the pandemic to keep them safe. In just two days Southend-on-Sea Borough Council placed 89 rough sleepers in hotel and B&B accommodation and housed a total of 138 across the entire period of lockdown. That was impressive work by Council staff and other organisations co-ordinated by our Labour-led Council.
As restrictions begin to ease, the Council’s housing and homelessness teams have been taking action on their plans to move those people from temporary to permanent accommodation, with the right support plan for each individual.
Now 48 individuals and childless couples have been placed in various types of long-term homes. These are people who were formerly in B&Bs as part of the coronavirus relief and those made homeless as the result of a relationship breakdown or other emergency circumstances.
The Council is continuing to engage with those B&Bs and hotels, in light of the Prime Minister announcing that they can reopen to the public from 4th July, and some of them are keen to continue to work with the Council. This is obviously a very fluid situation, with changes almost daily, but we should be proud of what has been achieved around homelessness in Southend in a very short space of time, and hope that this is the start of a more radical approach to homelessness, and improved cooperation between the Council, voluntary and charitable groups and local private businesses to address the problem.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, Labour Leader of the Council with responsibility for Housing, said: “As soon as the temporary accommodation was arranged, the teams turned their thoughts to what would happen afterwards. Now it is time to take the progress that has been made and make it permanent by offering each individual a housing situation and support system that is suitable to their needs so they can turn their lives around.”
“Some of the rough sleepers we have accommodated are what we call ‘entrenched rough sleepers’, people who have been living on the streets for years. The fact they agreed for their health and that of others, to accept accommodation and now want to make that move a permanent one is a good sign of change.”
“I want to take this opportunity to give a heartfelt thank you to the teams at the Council, and all of our partners, local charities and volunteers, who have supported this initiative and worked tirelessly to help this vulnerable section of the community.”
Key to the move-on plan is the ‘property to let’ campaign as there have been 300 homes in the private sector identified which could be added to our housing solutions portfolio. We need landlords with vacant properties available to let to come forward and work directly with the Council.
There are a range of benefits for landlords, including direct access to a private sector housing solutions officer, weekly landlord webinars and the Council paying the initial rent and deposit up front.
The Council is also moving those who no longer need the high level of support of our complex needs hostel into alternative accommodation and are working with HARP who are providing supported placements.
The housing is only part of the solution though, with dedicated support methods arranged to help those former rough sleepers who want to make a change. Multi-disciplinary teams of support are being developed, mental health outreach workers have been employed in addition to our multi-agency outreach worker teams, plus continuous GP support services to address health needs.
Cllr Gilbert added: “We cannot forget that there are people at the heart of the homelessness issue and rough sleeping is the extreme end of homelessness. Each person has a unique story to tell and their own individual challenges, and we have to adapt our services as appropriate. The aim is to work with our partner agencies and local charities, to give each person rough sleeping the best chance of turning their life around.”
Private landlords wishing to be a part of ending homelessness should call the Council’s housing solutions team on 01702 215002, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the form on the Council’s website www.southend.gov.uk/privatelandlords