Birley Ward Councillors have received several emails in the last few days from concerned residents asking what Sheffield City Councils plans are for getting homeless people off the freezing streets. I would like to thank those people for contact myself, Councillor Bryan Lodge and Councillor Denise Fox. I thought other members of our community would like to see the information below provided by the Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, Councillor Harry Harpham.
It is especially concerning when the weather is as cold and harsh as it has been over the last month for the safety of the homeless people in our city. The Council and voluntary organisations in the city are doing all they can to help combat this.
We have seen the numbers of homeless people rise in Sheffield and this is projected to increase over the coming years. The economic crisis combined with cuts to benefits has led to unemployment and homelessness in our city. As well as increases in homeless people we have seen an increase in food banks as the working poor struggle to feed their families.
This government is going to make the situation much worse with the impending changes to the welfare system including the introduction of the bedroom tax, localisation of council tax support and universal credit. These unfair cuts are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people in our city, soon they will unable to afford to pay rent, keep themselves warm or have enough to eat. It is projected that the number of people on the streets will increase when this comes into play and the council funding from government is not increasing to help meet this demand.
The Council has developed a coordinated response to rough sleeping in the city over a number of years. A summary of main service provision is provided below. This includes service provided by the Council and voluntary organisations.
Housing Solutions provides advice and assistance to anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness. Customers are offered full advice on their housing rights and options. The service aims to prevent homelessness wherever this is possible, assisting people to remain in their homes or make a planned move to alternative accommodation.
Where a customer becomes homeless they may be referred to appropriate supported accommodation or to other organisations that provide help to access housing. They can also be given assistance to access private rented accommodation.
In some circumstances the Council will have a duty to provide accommodation on an ongoing basis and will seek to re-house the customer into settled accommodation.
The Weather Watch service accommodates anyone who is homeless, who we do not have a duty to accommodate under the homeless legislation.
Accommodation is provided on a night by night basis and customers are placed for one night at a time. We place anyone where we have reason to believe they are homeless and where the weather conditions could cause harm or suffering to someone who remained on the streets overnight.
The overnight weather conditions are checked at 3pm to see if Weather Watch will operate that night. If the temperature is forecast to reach -2 (including wind chill) the Weather Watch service will be in operation that night. There may be other discretionary decisions for adverse weather conditions i.e. high risk of flood, torrential rainfall, heavy snowfall, or very high wind speeds. These criterions are based on Government guidance.
The service can be accessed in Howden House between 3 – 4.45pm and through the Out of Hours service on 0800 7311 689 & 0114 2735142 after 5pm on weekdays and at weekends and bank holidays.
Accommodation was provided on 46 occasions in December and 53 occasions so far in January. Please note that this is not individuals placed but booking made within these figures there will be many people who have been booked into accommodation more than once.
All those accommodation through Weather Watch are offered full advice on their housing options and where appropriate referrals will be made to supported accommodation providers. They will also be assessed for statutory homeless assistance and may be offered further temporary accommodation. In some circumstances we may accept a duty to provide housing for the person. Where this is not the case they will be referred to other services for rough sleepers, particularly Turning Point.
There are a wide range of voluntary organisations in Sheffield that help homeless people find shelter, learn new skills, get back into employment and find long term accommodation. There charities are doing great work in our city.
StopGap provides emergency accommodation on nights when Weather Watch is not operating and will run throughout the winter months. They have been awarded £35,000 to provide approximately 1000 bed spaces for Sheffield rough sleepers over the next 18 months;
The service can be access by attending Turning Point during office hours, Salvation Army reception in Charter Row in the early evening, or the nightly soup run in Eldon Street Car Park between 8-9 pm.
The service’s main focus is to secure permanent accommodation for people sleeping rough and to provide assistance to those at immediate risk of becoming homeless. The service is available to all couples or individuals who have no dependent children and who are sleeping rough, or at immediate risk of doing so and who are over the age of 18.
The service also provides help with;
• Helping develop life skills, including managing your finances
• Supporting you to maintain your tenancy
• Access to community services, employment, and education
• Helping clients remain safe and healthy
• Supporting your family
• Developing personal interests
The service can be contacted at: 44 Sidney Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 4RH. Tel: 0114 275 5973.
ASSIST helps destitute asylum seekers in Sheffield by providing accommodation, food and support to those in most need or distress. They are a charity reliant on volunteers, grants and donations. They have also received some government funding recently. They have been awarded £87,032 to work with homeless and destitute asylum seekers.
They can be accessed at drop-in sessions. The next session is on:
Monday, February 4, 2013 – 16:00 to 19:00 at the ASSIST office, Victoria Hall, Sheffield, S1 2JB (entrance on Chapel Walk, opposite the back of Marks and Spencer)
Cathedral Archer Project
The Cathedral Archer Project provides services for crisis intervention and to support clients to move on from homelessness. They have recently been awarded £176,873 to provide short-term accommodation to rough sleepers who have been helped off the streets.
Crisis intervention is to re-engage homeless or vulnerably housed adults with the relevant support services. This includes providing food, hygiene facilities (shower, laundry, and fresh clothes), access to medical services (nurse, dentist, and podiatrist) and contact to support agencies either through Project Worker direct intervention or Project Worker support to contact agencies (drug support, housing providers, benefits advisors etc).
Move on support involves Project Workers working alongside service users to achieve and maintain stable life patterns. This can include work in drug harm reduction groups, education groups, occupation and leisure activities, and volunteering within the CAP.
St. Wilfred’s Centre
St. Wilfred’s Centre have announced plans to build an accommodation facility on their premises to house homeless people and support them from crisis to being able to take on a tenancy. The model of having accommodation directly linked with training and support has been described as ‘a model for the rest of society’ in a national publication. St. Wilfred’s will be launching a fundraising appeal for this build in March… watch this space.
Roundabout is a homeless charity working specifically with young homeless people. Half of Sheffield’s homeless people are under the ages of 25. Roundabout has recently launched a fundraising appeal to carryout some important work to expand and improve their hostel. When the work is complete, the hostel will have 19 single bedrooms, kitchens, lounges and will provide a training room for life skills sessions to teach young people to live independently in the future and break the cycle of homelessness.
All of these organisations are making a positive difference to the homeless in Sheffield and there are many new developments to increase the capacity of the homeless sector in Sheffield. A lot of the work they do is reliant on donations and volunteers, so if you feel like you could help please do get in touch with these charities as I’m sure they would appreciate your help.
I would like to assure you that the council and voluntary organisations are doing what we can to help homeless people in our city.