This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 18/06/2018.
How a new £500,000 grant will help tackle homelessness in Croydon
More than half a million pounds is to be invested by Croydon Council after a government pledge.
A new specialist support service aiming to help homeless rough sleepers thanks to a £500,000 Government grant is to be implemented by Christmas, according to Croydon Council.
The council announced on Wednesday (June 13) it will use the money to work with local housing associations, charities and the voluntary sector to provide 10 one-bedroom flats for rough sleepers.
It comes after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond confirmed on Tuesday (June 12) the money as part of a nationwide £30 million package on top of £1.2 billion to halve the number of rough sleepers by 2022 and “end it altogether” by 2027.
Based on the principles of Housing First, the scheme will be aimed at the most vulnerable and provide help with medical needs, including mental health and substance misuse.
In a statement, councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, said: “The idea is to first give our most vulnerable people somewhere to call home, and this allows them to receive help for complex needs that previously could not be sustained by the usual homelessness services we provide.
“This major funding means the council and its partners can give specialist housing and the support needed to reduce the number of people rough sleeping in Croydon.
“The Government only gives grants of this size if councils demonstrate their schemes can deliver results, so this decision is a real boost for Croydon’s approach to tackling homelessness with our partners.”
But despite the investment, some people have expressed a preference for a free open access overnight walk-in centre that is likely to help a wider and fluctuating number of people day to day.
According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, the number of rough sleepers in Croydon was 31 in 2017, down from 68 in 2016 but the council has received the seventh highest of the 83 grants afforded to local authorities.
Jad Adams, chair of Croydon Nightwatch stated they will support the council but the area “needs an open-access shelter available at the point of need”.
He said: “I’m pleased, this money has been planned for a long time and we have always supported it and it’s no great surprise.
“I have definitely felt that we need an open-access shelter available at the point of need to which people can be referred by organisations like ourselves but the service the council is offering is obviously something we and other charities will support.
“There is a question of how people are referred to the new establishment if they are referred from council services only Monday to Friday nine to five it isn’t able to help people to access support who need an immediate response overnight.”
The ONS figures, which fluctuate heavily year on year, show the scale of the problem across London with Kingston having 27 rough sleepers, Hillingdon 36, Ealing 62, 44 in Waltham Forest and 65 in Redbridge.
But figures from Croydon Council’s 2017 Public Health Report in January state that from 2014 to 2017 the number of homeless people in Croydon has increased by 22 per cent and the number of rough sleepers are up by a third in three years.
This is compared with the London average which is seven per cent in the same timescale.
While Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, has welcomed the council’s announcement he also stated he “liked the idea of an open-access shelter” others have promoted.
He added: “This shows the government’s help for Croydon will make a real difference on the streets of our borough. I will, of course, monitor closely to make sure it gets spent well.”
Before Croydon Council confirmed their plans, he said: “I’m very pleased Croydon is one of the 83 areas to get help. People should never have to sleep rough on the streets, one person sleeping rough is one too many.
“We have to stop it. In Westminster they have 400 hostel places and people who go around from 7pm to 2am looking for rough sleepers to put a roof over their head, that’s an example of what a proactive council can do.”
Dr Bob Sleight, of Bridle Road, also helps Croydon Nightwatch and said: “It’s not uncommon to see 80 or 90 people a night that we give food to and rough sleepers aren’t just those on the street but also sofa surfers and those in an uncertain environment or relationship reliant on someone else.
“Two years ago we would get more than 100 people a night regularly coming to get food and when I first got involved in the 90s we would only get about 20 so the problem has got a lot worse.”
The Croydon Council statement added it will help those who often have a history of street homelessness, with causes such as heavy debt, family breakdown, long periods with no stable home, high risk of abuse and significant mental and physical health problems.
Like Housing First, where vulnerable homeless people receive accommodation on the sole condition that they maintain their tenancy, rather than needing to meet more detailed criteria. This means that the homeless person has more time and space to settle into their accommodation, get the support they need and become less likely to return to the streets.
Granted by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), it will also pay for the council’s Gateway division and its third-sector partners to develop a small Housing First team, including advisors with personal experience of being homeless.
Each homeless person in the scheme will get a key worker to help them access a range of support services, including psychiatry, drug treatment, help with skills, employability training and benefits. The flats will be a mix of social housing and private properties.