Almost 50 former rough sleepers have now been settled in permanent accommodation following on from Coronavirus.
On 23 March the Government issued a directive to all local authorities to temporarily house all rough sleepers during the pandemic to keep them safe. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council placed 89 rough sleepers in hotel and B&B accommodation in just two days and housed a total of 138 across the entire period of lockdown.
As restrictions begin to ease, the council’s housing and homelessness teams have been putting into action 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 now been placed in various types of accommodation since March 2020. These are people who were formally in B&Bs as part of the Coronavirus relief and those made homeless as the result of a relationship breakdown.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “As soon as the temporary accommodation was arranged, the teams turned their thoughts to what would happen after. Now it is time to take the progress that has been made and make it a 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 we have identified 300 homes in the private sector 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 us.
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 initial rent and deposit up front.
We are also moving those who no longer need a high level of support of our complex needs hostel into alternative accommodation and we are working with HARP who are providing supported placements.
Jackie Bliss, chief executive at HARP said: “The swift action taken to provide temporary housing for anyone who was rough sleeping before the lockdown, or who became homeless during this time, is a testament to the hard work and dedication of local organisations and the Southend community, in particular staff at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.
“I’m delighted that HARP is in a position to provide accommodation and support to some of those who have been temporarily housed in B&Bs during the pandemic and look forward to continuing to work closely with the Council and other local agencies to help local people to overcome homelessness for good.”
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.”
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