Hastings council’s housing initiatives half number of rough sleepers

Numbers of rough sleepers in Hastings has halved according to a report that will go before senior councillors next month.

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) is now widely recognised as a leader in innovative practice for reducing homelessness through intervention and prevention, members of the authority’s cabinet will be told.

The average number sleeping rough in Hastings in November 2018 was 48, a year later this was down to 24. The average in February so far is 19 and a further seven housing placements are planned for this week, so HBC hopes for a further reduction in numbers of rough sleepers before the end of the month.

‘I am proud of the work done by officers to work with partners and intervene in the lives of our most vulnerable residents…’

HBC says the progress has been made possible by the council investing its own money into services for rough sleepers, including twice-weekly outreach sessions and a specialist housing options officer. It points out too, that because it is seen as a leader in the field it has been successful in bidding for Rough Sleeping Initiative and Rapid Rehousing Pathway funds in each of the last two years.

A number of services funded by HBC are delivered collaboratively with community and voluntary sector organisations, including the Seaview Project and Southdown Housing Association. 

Since June 2018, the council has used a portion of the Rough Sleeping Initiative grant to form a dedicated team of health, mental health, substance dependency, social care and housing specialists providing wraparound support for rough sleepers.

Hastings councillors including its leader Peter Chowney (centre) and l-r Hastings Mayor Nigel Sinden, Councillors Leah Levane, Maya Evans and Deputy Mayor James Bacon are active in raising funds to tackle homelessness including taking part in The Big Sleep to raise awareness of levels of rough sleeping and raise cash for local charity Seaview.

It also leads successful partnerships bringing together the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), social services, probation, and hospitals to ensure the housing needs of vulnerable people are met and HBC says this approach will be expanded this year to include the police to identify and support vulnerable people leaving prison.

The report to cabinet next month will highlight that getting people off the streets is only the first part of the story and show that Hastings has the highest number of Housing First placements – for former rough sleepers – in East Sussex: “This approach is recognised as national best practice in providing ongoing support for people with multiple and complex needs. We have also been working to incentivise landlords to provide private rented accommodation for former rough sleepers,” councillors will be told. 

Approximately 80 per cent of rough sleepers in Hastings have a local connection to the town, although this can vary throughout the year.

Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet will hear next month that it has halved levels of rough sleeping.

In Hastings, between January 2019 and January 2020 a total of 79 rough sleepers were accommodated and a further 19 cases at imminent risk of rough sleeping were successfully prevented.

However HBC points out that despite its successes, the problem of rough sleeping is one that is not easily solved given the shortage of affordable housing in the town linked to pressures within the care and support services and changes to the benefits system.

More details of the councils work can be found in our homelessness strategyhttps://www.hastings.gov.uk/housing/strategies/

Councillor Andy Batsford, lead councillor for housing said today: “I am proud of the work done by officers to work with partners and intervene in the lives of our most vulnerable residents and halve the rough sleeping numbers from their peak in 2018.

“While the additional resources to tackle rough sleeping are very welcomed, the short-term nature of many of the grants makes it difficult to plan a long-term strategic approach to this issue, in particular, to address a lack of affordable housing.”

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