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Colchester Borough Council provides support for vulnerable rough sleepers

Date issued: 20 December 2017

Colchester Borough Council continues to provide support for vulnerable rough sleepers, in an effort to tackle homelessness and street begging in the Borough.

With the cold weather currently being experienced, the Council is continuing its work to ensure vulnerable rough sleepers receive the help and support they need to access safe and secure accommodation.

As the Safer Colchester Partnership's lead authority, Colchester Borough Council already works with a broad coalition of statutory agencies, charities and community groups, to develop and coordinate a number of initiatives to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness in the Borough.

One such initiative involves Community Zone Wardens engaging with individuals identified as sleeping rough and signposting them to local support services with the help of a free pocket guide to homelessness produced in association with Colchester Borough Homes (CBH).

The Council and CBH continue to work closely with local organisations to ensure stable, secure accommodation is found and maintained by those who need it.

CBH provides grant funding of £90,000 to local agencies who support them to prevent homelessness, and deliver initiatives to support homeless people.   

Colchester Borough Council has also awarded funding to Colchester Women's' Refuge and Colchester Emergency Night Shelter from its Voluntary Welfare Grant funding.  

A successful funding application in partnership with Tendring District Council has seen a £240,000 award* from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to increase support for rough sleepers, over the next two years. The aim of this project is to prevent people from ending up on the streets and to assist those on the streets already to access support and accommodation

There are a number of local street outreach projects which signpost rough sleepers to support services, help identify people new to the street and help move people on from a street lifestyle once they find settled accommodation.

The Council and CBH also follow the guidance and recommendations in the Local Government Association's Severe Weather Emergencies Protocol and support Colchester Winter Night Shelters to achieve this.

Preparations for the introduction of the Homeless Reduction Act in April 2018, which focus on prevention and establishing an enabling service approach are also underway.

Other agencies working in partnership with the Council to tackle local homelessness, include:

  • CHASUP (Colchester Homelessness Agencies Service Users Panel), which brings agencies together to work collaboratively with entrenched rough sleepers and helps them access accommodation and support.
  • Mid and North Essex Mind, which provides a variety of services to help reduce the stigma attached to mental health and is often the driver for, and exacerbated by, homelessness;
  • Emmaus Colchester, which offers high quality accommodation and meaningful work experience for vulnerable people at risk of homelessness;
  • Open Door, a drop-in centre which offers support, advice and signposting for various concerns, including housing, benefits and employment;
  • Youth Enquiry Service, which provides housing advice, information and support for the under-25s;

Cllr Mike Lilley, Portfolio Holder for Public Safety and Licensing, said: "We want to make sure that the vulnerable people we see sleeping rough, those who are homeless due to personal or financial problems, are given the very best chance of moving on with their lives - which I'm sure everyone will agree is what they need and deserve."

"It is therefore vital that we continue to engage with vulnerable rough sleepers and other people at risk of homelessness in the Borough, so that we can signpost them to the services best able to provide them with the specialist help and support they need."

Cllr Tina Bourne, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Communities, said: "Homelessness is a complex social problem with a variety of underlying economic and social factors such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, uncertain physical and mental health, addictions, and family breakdown.

"But it is also a situation that we see being exacerbated by the impact of national welfare benefits changes, the increasing use of benefits sanctions, changes to Local Housing Allowance rates, and the effect of the Shared Accommodation Rate paid to single people under 35.

"However, with the right support at the right time, we know we can end peoples'  homelessness - or it can be prevented from happening in the first place - which is why we remain committed and focused on working closely with other organisations in the Borough dedicating themselves to helping the homeless."