The First Rough Sleeping 'Hub' Showing Promise
As part of the government’s £100m ‘Rough Sleeping Strategy’, new support centres are opening across the country to help get rough sleepers off the streets.
On every politician’s agenda recently is the need to brainstorm how to solve the homelessness issues across the country. We’re at an undeniable tipping point as a society, where we’re close to having unmanageable levels of people sleeping rough. No matter how much you try to close your eyes to the problem or assuage any guilt of not doing more to help, none of us can claim to be unaware that the UK has a homelessness crisis. Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is working tirelessly to come up with creative ideas to help the prominent issue in Greater Manchester; but it does seem that every new idea can’t seem to make an indentation. People are still sleeping on the streets around every corner. Homelessness services are stretched to breaking points trying to help as many people as possible. The papers are filled with reports about how homelessness is just getting worse. Despite all this pressure, MP James Brokenshire is trying to be the man with the plan when it comes to easing the homelessness crisis, thanks to his pitch for “homeless hubs” across the country.
In December 2018, ministers announced that 11 ‘rough sleeping hubs’ would be introduced in cities across the UK to help give homeless people a place of immediate support and safety. Secretary of State for Housing, Community and Local Government James Brokenshire is leading the drive to instil this new network of safe havens for rough sleepers, committing £5m to the initiative. And now, the first one has opened its doors and it’s already starting to make people hopeful.
The first Somewhere Safe to Stay (SSTS) hub in Nottingham is an attempt to get people off the streets and into accommodation as quickly as possible, and more locations around the UK will follow suit in Spring 2019. Opening ahead of schedule on 7th February 2019, the Nottingham homeless hub can accommodate up to 8 people at a time, including their pets, and allows rough sleepers to stay there for up to 3 days while their assigned “navigator” works to find them a more permanent situation. Two rough sleepers have already been placed in private rented accommodation while another 2 are in the process of getting tenancies agreed. That’s 4 success stories in just a matter of weeks. For a brand-new way of approaching things, that surely has got to count for something, doesn’t it?
While we don’t like to jump to conclusions and there’s still a vast amount of work to be done to support the homeless people across the country, this network of homeless hubs could be the strategy we needed. Each rough sleeper is assigned a ‘navigator’ who not only helps them find a more secure place to stay, but also finds them appropriate support for any addiction or mental health issues they may have. Which approaches homelessness in a slightly new way, understanding that there are multiple issues intertwining that lead someone to sleep on the streets. As James Brokenshire commented, “these are vulnerable people, who may be dealing with complex mental health problems or addictions and require specialist help to tackle these issues and turn their lives around”; so it’s vital we provide the necessary support. These homeless hubs seem to recognise the need for a ‘bigger picture’ approach to homelessness and perhaps, this could finally be a sign that we’re getting things right.
Following on from the quick success of the Nottingham centre, homeless hubs will be opening in the following areas:
- Brighton & Hove
- Cheshire West & Chester
- Gloucestershire (encompassing the 7 councils in the county)
- West London (encompassing 7 borough councils)
While there are no assurances that this network will have sustainable success, we must be hopeful. The collaboration between multiple services and approaching the issue of rough sleeping as a complex issue just might be the trick. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the future Somewhere Safe to Stay (SSTS) hubs do, and should they show positive results like Nottingham has done – we’ll definitely be making sure the man with the plan knows to expand the network. After all, 11 centres are a great start, but will never have the capacity to fully reduce the levels of homelessness in the UK. If this initiative proves to be successful, the government will have to be prepared to commit more money and effort into covering all regions so that no person is left with no option but to sleep on the streets.
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