More help for Welwyn Hatfield's rough sleepers

PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 November 2017

A site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by Resolve

A site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by Resolve

supplied by Resolve

Welwyn Hatfield Council is taking up new partnerships to address rough sleeping, thanks to new government funds.

A site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by ResolveA site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by Resolve

Since 2010, as part of the government’s “No Second Night Out” initiative, local authorities have been asked to identify and assist rough sleepers in accessing emergency accommodation and help towards essential services.

Now ring-fenced government funds of £429,863 between 2017-19 have allowed the council to set up the Welwyn Hatfield Housing First Project, a partnership between the council, Resolve, Citizens Advice and Druglink.

Resolve, a drug and alcohol charity, can put its on-the-ground knowledge of local rough sleepers to use in the partnership.

Resolve’s job will be to identify and locate rough sleepers, and to have officers out within 24 hours of the council receiving a report of a person sleeping rough.

A site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by ResolveA site in the Welwyn Hatfield area where rough sleepers were found by Resolve. No-one now lives at this site. Picture supplied by Resolve

If there are concerns for safety, the police are on board to accompany officers.

Resolve can then make an assessment of what sort of services the person needs and what housing options are available to them.

If they are from outside the area, or even the country, the aim is to reconnect that person to their local community unless they have good reason not to.

The project also aims to clean up debris from sites where rough sleepers have bedded down in once they have been contacted.

Joe Heeney, chief executive officer of Resolve, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The council are very forward thinking in this. “Historically it has been difficult for people who don’t qualify for social housing to be housed.”

Often, people with complex problems like drug and alcohol dependency or mental health issues have not found it easy to access council housing, Joe explained.

But the Housing First Project is, as the council puts it, “a last resort for those who fall through the gaps”.

They hope that with a joined-up approach between the council and civil organisations, people receiving emergency accommodation can then directly access the services that may also enable them to get back on their feet, and eventually get more stable accommodation.

The number of rough sleepers in Welwyn Hatfield has been notoriously difficult to estimate, as people move around, and several reports could refer to one person.

The council’s count has varied between one and three people since 2010, but in 2015, 14 people were counted.

Joe suggests this is as a result of the council partnering with Resolve that year, whose street worker team has regular contact with people living without proper shelter.

In 2016, three people were counted, but as the teams also found locations with evidence of recent rough sleeping, the figure could be as high as six.

Resolve has been allocated £24,340.33 out of the new funds to deliver its part for the year.

Joe said: “It is the best example of how relatively small sums of money paid to third sector charitable organisations can have very significant outcomes.”

If you think you have seen someone sleeping rough, you should contact www.streetlink.org.uk, or call 01707 357 613 during office hours) and 0800 1114484 outside office hours.

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