Colchester’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy was adopted in April 2020.
The strategy was produced in line with the Colchester Borough Council's (CBC) legal duty under the Homelessness Act 2002, which required all local authorities to carry out a homelessness review, develop a Homelessness Strategy for their area to prevent homelessness, and provide accommodation and/or support for people who are or may become homeless, including rough sleepers.
The Homelessness Code of Guidance published in February 2018 stated that local authorities with rough sleepers ought to consider provision for rough sleepers within their homelessness strategy. In line with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy and to satisfy the requirements for the Rough Sleeping Initiative funding, it was agreed that rough sleeping would form part of Colchester’s strategy with an Action Plan set out to specifically reduce rough sleeping.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 fundamentally changed the way local authorities work to support homeless people in their areas, giving them new duties to prevent homelessness for more people. CBC worked collaboratively with its partners to build on this approach to produce the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for Colchester.
In response to the Covid-19 public health emergency, the Government sent out a request to all Local Authorities in March 2020 that “everybody that is rough sleeping as of this date is given an offer of somewhere they can stay safely and, if need be, to self-isolate”. The government’s ‘everyone in’ strategy was to bring in those on the streets to protect their health and stop wider transmission, and those in assessment centres and shelters unable to comply with social distancing advice.
The approach aimed to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on people facing homelessness and ultimately on preventing deaths during the public health emergency.
Colchester Borough Homes (CBH), on behalf of the Council managed to source and provide emergency accommodation following the government guidelines, at a local hotel, one of the Council’s Sheltered schemes and some supported accommodation managed by Peabody. The clients were supported at the accommodation by the Rough Sleeper Team, Peabody floating support service (commissioned by Essex County Council) as well as voluntary sector partners (providing additional support including mental health and substance misuse, food and toiletries) and volunteers.
The overarching vision for the strategy is:
To build collaborative partnerships to Increase early intervention and prevention of homelessness in Colchester.
To achieve this vision four key aims were agreed:
The strategy will achieve its aims and objectives through the implementation of a 5-year Delivery Plan that will tackle homelessness in the borough by working closely with partner organisations and focusing on early interventions that prevent homelessness.
The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy Progress Report 2021 contains some highlights of the actions in the Strategy that have been achieved or progressed in the first year of the strategy.
The Delivery Plan which sets out the actions to deliver the aims of the Strategy has also been updated.
Challenge: Create opportunities for accessing housing of the right kind and quality, to prevent people from becoming homeless.
Action: Implement and sustain the private rented sector (PRS) access scheme – “Bond Assure” and the Homestep scheme.
Progress: In the last year (April 2020 to March 2021) CBH used the Homestep scheme (which provides rent deposits) to prevent homelessness and accommodate 144 households in the private rented sector.
Challenge: Ensure people are not discharged from services such as Prisons, Mental Health, care, armed forces and hospitals in an unplanned way which could result in them ending up on the street
Action: Set up/improve release/discharge protocols for people leaving Institutions.
Progress: CBC signed up to an Essex wide Prison Release Protocol which has been set up by Essex County Council and quarterly monitoring of the scheme is in place.
Challenge: Identify accommodation opportunities for rough sleepers to help with transition from living on the street
Action: Work with local landlords to increase accommodation opportunities for this group. Use positive outcomes from the ‘Housing First’ approach to encourage other organisations to adopt a similar scheme.
Progress: Funding was secured by CBC in partnership with Peabody from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Next Steps Accommodation Pathway (NSAP) to provide 7 units of self-contained move-on accommodation with support, by reconfiguring one of Peabody’s Supported Housing schemes.
Challenge: Ensure tenants in the social rented sector at risk of homelessness are provided with more intensive tenancy support including that provided by floating support
Action: Encourage the take up of tenancy support including floating support to vulnerable tenants moving into accommodation including temporary accommodation
Progress: Due to the national ban on evictions, no CBC tenants were evicted during 2020/21.
The following interventions have been put in place during the year to provide tenancy support to tenants:
Challenge: Statutory services need to be more joined up when commissioning mental health services to make better use of the options available and provide a more efficient and cost-effective service.
Action: Help to provide a better understanding between organisations of mental health services.
Progress: A mental health nurse seconded from EPUT* to CBH provides support and better access to mental health services for single homeless clients.
*(Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust (EPUT) provides integrated care including mental health, learning disability, social care and community health services).
Challenge: Households and individuals that are homeless but not in priority need or are in temporary accommodation can have greater public health needs than the rest of the population.
Action: Promote the integration between health and housing to meet the indicator around homelessness in the Public Health Outcomes Framework: Improving the wider determinants of Health for homeless acceptances and households in temporary accommodation
Progress: The Covid-19 public health pandemic has resulted in improved joined up working between health and housing and provided a better understanding of the roles.
Weekly meetings set up by ECC with Health and Essex Local Authorities has provided a joined-up approach to Homelessness and Rough Sleeping across the county.
Challenge: Develop early intervention and prevention options for young people at risk of becoming homeless in the borough
Action: Provide basic strategies and signposting to support families to resolve conflict.
Progress: The Youth Enquiry Service (y.e.s) has employed a family mediator who will work with young people and their families to try to prevent parental eviction.
Challenge: Promote a person-centred approach to people that are homeless by creating structures which encourage voluntary sector services to work better together and share good practice
Action: Set up a multi-agency working group
Set up ‘Community of Practice’ with Homeless link to encourage voluntary partners to work together on homelessness issues.
Challenge: More assertive approach to rough sleepers is needed in order to help them access support services and accommodation
Action: Funding awarded by MHCLG Rough sleeper Initiative funding to provide a more assertive street outreach, especially out of hours provision and reconnection.
Progress: Funding from MHCLG Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) was secured by CBC for 2019-20 and 2020-21 to continue the initiatives already in place provided by the Rough Sleeper Team based within CBH.
During 2020-21 the Team provided advice, support, and assistance to 161 rough sleepers or those at risk of rough sleeping and accommodated 101 people. This included those in emergency accommodation under the government’s ‘everyone in’ initiative.
Challenge: Accommodation with wraparound support needed for entrenched rough sleepers to help them move from the streets into settled accommodation
Action: Funding awarded by MHCLG Rough sleeper initiative funding to provide an opportunity to pilot a 'Housing First’ Registered Provider that provides supported housing.
Progress: The Housing Led scheme accommodation provided by Sanctuary Housing and funded using MHCLG (RSI) funding secured by CBC continues to be successful in providing accommodation with wraparound support to rough sleepers with ‘chaotic lifestyles’.
During 2020-21 there were 11 referrals to the scheme via the Rough Sleeper Team. Three clients have successfully moved on during the year and only 1 client has returned to the street.