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Official annual rough sleeper count announced

Friday 28 February 2020 - By Southend on Sea Borough Council

More investment in outreach services and better partnership working has been praised as the latest annual rough sleeper count figures for Southend-on-Sea are announced.

Volunteers worked overnight on 14/15 November 2019 to get an official count of the number of people sleeping rough on the streets across the borough. The number recorded is 32, a rise from the 11 recorded in 2018, but significantly less than the 72 estimated in 2017. The national figures were announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The count involves volunteers from different agencies, services and charities across the borough, physically walking around the streets into the early hours, visiting known hot spots and areas where rough sleepers are known to ‘bed down’ for the night.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with responsibility for housing, said: “The rough sleeper count provides us with a ‘snapshot’ of what is happening on one specific night in our town. And whilst the number has risen, thanks to the ongoing intelligence provided by our outreach teams it is actually a lot more reflective of what we know to be happening on the streets of our town.

“The longer outreach teams, navigators and case workers are in place, the more we are learning about what our borough needs in terms of provisions to prevent people from sleeping rough. These teams, which are funded by the rough sleeper initiative, are vital in providing accurate intelligence about the rough sleeper community and likely to have had an impact on the rise in numbers counted.”

Since the 2018 count Southend-on-Sea Borough Council have introduced or funded a number of schemes and initiatives including:

· Extended the outreach teams

· Introducing a dedicated rough sleeper coordinator

· Frontline rough sleeper ‘navigators’ to ensure ongoing holistic support

· Funded HARP’s extended emergency service

· Helped to fund the Church Winter Night Shelter scheme

· Provided links to mental health and substance misuse services

· Supported STAR’s work with Naloxone kits

· Developed a rent deposit scheme to help access the private sector

· Made the Community Safety Partnership Team permanent.

The council was also selected as one of three local authorities to take part in important research with the Centre for Homelessness Impact, looking at behavioural insights, data and design thinking, in order to come up with alternative ways to prevent homelessness.

This is in addition to schemes and initiatives run by our partner organisations and work by the Council to increase complex needs provision and the number of social housing properties available through the acquisitions programme and housing pipeline.

Cllr Gilbert added: “Rough sleeping is very much the extreme end of homelessness and we work closely with our partner agencies to ensure we cover the issue from every possible angle, including preventing hundreds of people becoming homeless in the first place.

“We are aware, like most areas within the UK, there is a housing shortage in Southend-on-Sea, which is why the new administration has budgeted £9.5 million over the next three years to continue buying private property to turn into new council housing to ease the pressure on our housing waiting lists. Plus the council own over 100 units of temporary accommodation, managed via South Essex Homes.

“In the coming year we will also increase the capacity of the housing solutions team to help prevent homelessness and with EPUT introduce a dedicated clinical mental health outreach worker. It really is a multi-agency approach as we all work together on long term sustainable solutions, to make sure no one feels like the only option they have is to sleep on the streets.”

Jackie Bliss, chief executive of HARP, Southend’s homeless charity, said: “It's important to remember that the official rough sleeper count is simply a snapshot from one particular night. Whilst 32 people were found to be sleeping rough on this night, we know that over half of the 1,232 people that used HARP’s services in 2019 had a history of sleeping rough. The picture is ever-evolving, but what is clear is that there is a continued need for innovative solutions to the housing crisis.

“At HARP, we are always looking at new ways to help people get off the streets, and the number of bed spaces we are able to offer has grown in line with the need in the town. We’re pleased that the number of people found to be sleeping rough on our streets on the official count has dropped since the record high of 2017, but the job is far from done.

“As well as the rough sleepers whose lives are at risk, there are many more people in precarious accommodation, sofa-surfing, or staying in temporary housing that need ongoing support to avoid and overcome homelessness for good.”

If you see someone sleeping rough you can send their location to Streetlink: The referral will send an outreach worker to the location to visit the person and support them to access the services they need.

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