Cheshire East has restated its commitment to tackling the issue of rough sleeping and homelessness in the borough.
The statement came as new figures showed the levels of rough sleeping were increasing across the country. Estimated figures for November 2017 showed the number of people sleeping rough in Cheshire East was 21. This is up from 12 in 2014, the last time the council undertook an estimated count.
The announcement follows a range of recent initiatives launched by the council to tackle the problem and the completion, last month, of a nine-week consultation on Cheshire East Council’s draft homelessness strategy.
The council has been working with a number of groups and organisations to develop ways to reduce the problem of homelessness and provide the right services for the homeless and rough sleepers. A four-point action plan has already been drawn up to help tackle the issue.
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing planning and regeneration, said: “The increasing number of rough sleepers is a national issue that councils across the country are facing. Cheshire East is not immune to these pressures.
“In Cheshire East, historically, we have seen very low numbers of people sleeping rough, compared to many authorities. However, one person sleeping rough is one too many.
“We have been, and continue to be, very proactive in working with partners to develop an effective strategy to reduce the number of people sleeping on our streets and ensure that the right measures are in place to prevent people from losing a roof over their heads.
“Homelessness is an issue that we are determined to deal with in the most positive and sensitive way. Statutory bodies, the voluntary sector, charities and faith groups as well as local businesses and local residents, have all been involved in contributing to the council’s draft homelessness strategy.
“The draft strategy outlines our key priorities – one of which is to intervene to ensure no one has to sleep rough in Cheshire East.
“A number of positive ideas and suggestions emerged from the groups we engaged with during a successful homelessness strategy consultation event at Crewe Alexandra FC in November 2017. This enthusiasm is being harnessed by the homelessness strategy steering group and the establishment of ‘task and finish’ groups, which will concentrate on key activities outlined within the draft strategy.
“Some homeless individuals are likely to be known to a range of services, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, housing options team, police and health services. We have therefore decided to establish a ‘hard to house’ panel, to find solutions for those who have seemingly exhausted all housing options.”
Other initiatives proposed include an ‘Upstream’ homeless prevention ‘mentoring scheme, wider monitoring for rough sleeper levels and building on the ‘No second night out’ commitment to ensure no one has to sleep on the streets.
The council is determined to tackle the harmful effects of homelessness, such as the impact on family life and children, an individual’s physical and mental health, including the loss of self-esteem and confidence and the loss of employment.
While homelessness in the borough has risen, from a very low base, this is put down to a number of factors, including family or tenancy issues, rising rents and benefit cuts. However, the number of cases where homelessness has been prevented, has also risen year on year.
The council’s current homelessness strategy (2014-17) must be reviewed and a new strategy, from 2018 to 2022, will be put before cabinet for a decision on approval in March 2018. The new draft strategy has four key areas of focus:
· To help secure appropriate, affordable accommodation for the homeless;
· To take steps to prevent homelessness;
· Avoid rough sleeping wherever possible; and
· Ensure appropriate support to help people stay in their accommodation.
Cllr Arnold added: “We have received a great many positive ideas from the groups we have engaged with and these suggestions will be incorporated into the feedback from the consultation. I would like, once again, to thank all those organisations and individuals who contributed to this consultation.”
The strategy and consultation coincide with the imminent implementation of the government’s Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into effect on 3 April 2018.
● To view the council’s new draft homelessness strategy visit: http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/housing/strategic_housing/new-homelessness-strategy-consultation.aspx