H&F work with experts to end rough sleeping once and for all

The chief executive of homeless charity Crisis has praised our pledge to end rough sleeping in Hammersmith & Fulham.

The chief executive of homeless charity Crisis has praised our pledge to end rough sleeping in Hammersmith & Fulham after leading a ground-breaking investigation.

Six homelessness experts were asked by H&F Council to lead the H&F Rough Sleeping Commission, chaired by Jon Sparkes of Crisis.

They are presenting their findings to council staff, plus representatives from local charities, the Greater London Authority, and the Government on Tuesday 13 March.

“It’s absolutely right that H&F Council are determined to end rough sleeping in their borough,” said Jon.

“Sleeping on the streets ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and takes a dreadful toll on mental and physical health.

“This is no way for anyone to live, especially when we know how to solve this crisis. We’d like to see other boroughs follow H&F Council’s bold lead, until there is no more rough sleeping in this city and eventually, across the country.

“I would like to thank the commissioners for their hard work in bringing this report together and in particular, the 108 people with experience of sleeping rough who were interviewed.

“We know rough sleeping is not inevitable - let’s put an end to this injustice once and for all.”

Everyone attending the event, at The Bush Theatre, will talk about the findings and discuss how they can work together to turn the plans into action.

Jon’s fellow commissioners were Michael Angus, director of the Barons Court Project; Michael Buraimoh, operations director of the Upper Room; Steven Platts, senior project manager at Glass Door; Thomas Neumark, chief executive of the Peel Institute; and Paul Doe MBE, former chief executive of Shepherds Bush Housing Group.

The commissioners heard from 108 homeless people who have had experience of sleeping rough in H&F, as well as from experts on the causes of the problem. They analysed data and accompanied outreach workers locally and across London.

“We have an ambitious aim to reduce rough sleeping in H&F to zero, something I’m confident we can achieve thanks to these recommendations,” said Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of H&F Council.

“They provide the starting point to make real and lasting change – not just in H&F but far wider.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Jon and his team for their hard work.”

The aims

The commissioners’ six key aims:

  • A stronger focus on prevention.
  • To focus on finding people housing rather than hostels first.
  • A more tailored and personalised approach.
  • A better co-ordinated emergency response.
  • Strategies to mitigate the effects of welfare reform – including the effects of Universal Credit with its six-week waiting period.
  • Adequate supply of secure, accessible and affordable housing – by procuring more properties in the private rented sector and putting aside a proportion of social housing.

The facts about rough sleeping in H&F

  • In 2016/7, 246 people were seen sleeping rough in H&F, a two per cent rise from the previous year.
  • Of these, 123 people did not spend a second night on the streets, largely thanks to the No Second Night Out project.
  • The number of rough sleepers coming from short to medium-term accommodation rose by about four per cent. There has been a six per cent decrease last year in the number coming from long-term accommodation. These trends are reflected across London.

What rough sleepers say

No-one wants to sleep rough and only two out of the 108 homeless people interviewed in H&F wanted to live in a hostel.

The current support, such as day centres, is not enough.

The benefits system, particularly Universal Credit, is making the problem worse – 62 per cent said the most common problem was the delay in benefit payments, 35 per cent said their benefits had stopped, and 35 per cent said unhelpful staff at the job centre was a cause.

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Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis.

What should happen now?

The commissioners recommended new ways of working in four key areas:

1. Better prevention

H&F Council should:

  • Ensure everyone at risk of sleeping rough is accommodated by adopting a No First Night Out approach and invest in more training for frontline staff.
  • Involve the public in tackling rough sleeping.
  • Work with prison and probation staff to ensure no one sleeps rough when they leave prison.
  • Provide urgent support to private tenants who are at risk of sleeping rough.
  • Ensure people are not made homeless because they have been evicted from social housing.

The GLA should:

  • Put in place a London-wide approach to protect homeless people from benefit sanctions.
  • Ensure sufficient help for people moving onto Universal Credit.
  • Support all London local authorities to adopt a No First Night Out approach.

The Government should:

  • Increase funding for the Homelessness Reduction Act.
  • Ensure the Department for Work and Pensions works with job centres to ensure their staff have better training and understanding of homelessness and the effects sanctions can have.
  • Ensure the Ministry of Justice obligates prison governors to ensure prisoners are fully supported upon leaving prison.

2. Emergency response

H&F Council should:

  • Help the voluntary sector design day services around the experience of rough sleepers.
  • Ensure there are enough outreach workers who can immediately help people off the street.
  • Provide more legal advice for rough sleepers and those at risk of losing their homes.
  • Make sure people who can’t access hostels have somewhere safe to stay.

The Government should:

  • Suspend deportation of European Economic Area migrant rough sleepers until after a full review of Home Office guidance.

3. Housing First 

H&F Council should:

  • Build on its Housing First pilot scheme – this involves offering permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible to people with complex needs. It is combined with support services and help to engage with the community to stop people returning them to the streets.
  • Ensure homes are made available in the in the private and social rented sector for people made a Housing First offer.
  • Work with local health care providers to expand the Housing First scheme.
  • Work to ensure all homeless people are moved out of hostels and into settled housing as soon as possible.
  • Ensure people with experience of homelessness are involved in providing services so they can share their experiences.  

The Government should:

  • Provide a realistic amount of funding for the Housing First scheme.
  • Ensure the NHS and Public Health England allocates budgets on a London-wide basis for homelessness interventions, including Housing First.

4. Supply of secure and affordable housing for rough sleepers and people at risk of losing their homes

H&F Council should:

  • Work with housing associations to ensure rough sleepers are not discriminated against.
  • Make sure social housing is provided for people made a Housing First offer.
  • Find ways of increasing the amount of shared, affordable accommodation for young people aged under 35.
  • Make sure developments provide housing for homeless people.

The Government should:

  • Review Local Housing Allowance to reduce the gap between Housing Benefit and market rents.
  • Reassess the Housing and Planning Act 2016’s impact on social housing which is undermining supply of social housing.
  • Increase the grant for genuinely affordable homes such as social housing.

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