Getting Homeless People off the Freezing Streets

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

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.

Weather Watch

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.

Turning Point

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.

An Audience with Tony Robinson

I had the pleasure of attending an event for 7-11 year old school children yesterday (25th January 2013) at the City Hall Ballroom. An Audience with Tony Robinson was absolutely brilliant! My journey started noisily as I was joined on the tram by children from Charnock Hall Primary School who I quickly learned were attending the same event. I must congratulate the children on their good behaviour on the tram although a little noisy it was great to hear their excited chatter.

This event was organised by Diane Kostka and Jayne Crawshaw from the Sheffield Schools Library Service and what a great job they did. Most people will know Tony Robinson from the TV programmes such as Black Adder, Time Team and Maid Marian and her Merry Men. Tony has also written many books on historical subjects and has won Best Book with Facts category of the Blue Peter Book Awards. He talked about his latest series of books, “Weird World of Wonders”.

Tony was excellent at engaging the whole audience for 50 minutes whilst we explored with him Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and the British. Tony involved children and teachers on stage to take part in demonstrating through drama the various developments from each period from the building of pyramids, the embalmment of mummies, how the Olympics came about to Hitlers invasion. His engagement with the children was highly educational, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.

Invitation to The Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central is inviting those interested to the launch of a campaign for fair funding for Sheffield. The Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign is being launched outside the Town Hall at 1pm on Friday 25th January with a photocall for the local press.

The Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign is being supported by a wide range of Sheffield’s faith leaders, the voluntary and community sector, trade unions and local politicians. We are coming together to launch a people’s petition for fair funding for Sheffield and to challenge the Government’s unfair distribution of cuts on Sheffield. As you will know, this unfairness is demonstrated by the fact that between 2010/11 and 2012/13 our Council’s funding is being cut by £139 per person but the more affluent Richmond Upon Thames, for example, is being reduced by only £11.99 per person.

The Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign and petition can be found at

We hope you will be able to join us on Friday and support the campaign. You will all be very welcome.

Spa View Road Post Office

Councillor Karen McGowan was contact by the owner of the Spa View Road Post Office regarding highway concerns outside the premises such as the churning up of grass verges and the parking bay outside the store not being wide enough. These issues were reported through to Amey the contractor who manage the city’s highways maintenance for the next 25 years. Although the contract is a replacement of ‘like for like’ where every road, and footpath will be treated to deliver a renewed and smoother surface, new or improved energy efficient street lighting provided on every road, work done on highways trees to reduce ‘nuisance’, street furniture such as railings, signs, etc renewed and all traffic signals updated. Councillor Karen McGowan says “I have raised the issues with Amey’s programme of works team in the hope that when the work is undertaken in this area they will be able to take into account the current issues and we may be able to work together to find a cost effective solution”. One of the issues was for the moving back of the lamp post outside the Post Office – it is currently very close to the kerb and in bad weather conditions vehicles cars can easily run into this. I have received assurances that this has already been built into the programme as a task that will be undertaken.

If you want to know when the Streetsahead work is being carried out in your area please visit

Tour de France in Sheffield in 2014

As you will have heard confirmed on the media the Tour de France is coming to Sheffield in the Summer of 2014. Welcome to Yorkshire won the tour for the county and the route organisers have chosen Sheffield as the end of the second day (6 July 2014). The actual end point will be announced in October. It is chosen by the race organisers based on a number of technical requirements. The second day (ending in Sheffield) is a technically difficult up and down race and will be, we are promised, very exciting if you are a cyclist! It will be a massive public spectacle and an amazing opportunity for the city. The route will be signed and will enable cyclists to cycle the tour in the future – a long term legacy which will increase sports tourism.

Your local Labour Councillors are pleased Sheffield has been chosen for the second day to end in our city. Councillor Karen McGowan says “we now need to seize the opportunities having the Tour brings us in stimulating the economy.”
We realise that the public will be concerned about the cost associated with hosting the tour. Welcome to Yorkshire will be working with all the host cities to help us to access ‘in kind’ sponsorship to deliver the tour and are also lobbying government to obtain UK Sport financial support for the event. Councillor Isobel Bowler, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure and Officers are immediately starting to work on the details and ensure that we get the best possible result for the city and the wider economy. The Council will be clearly doing everything it can to make sure that the costs can be kept as low as possible. Please note that any costings that are be in the media recently have been speculative and have not taken into account any potential for offsetting them against external funding or in kind support.

Welcome to Yorkshire analysis that the upfront cost of the tour will come back 10 times in terms of increased economic activity around the tour. There will also be significant returns in terms of enhanced profile for Yorkshire to a global audience.

Don Valley Stadium

Your local Labour Councillors find it ironic that in the context of Olympic legacy Sheffield has to consider withdrawing council subsidy from Don Valley Stadium. Councillor Karen McGowan says “There is no revenue funding for Olympic legacy to support this facility and the council has to find the money from within our ever decreasing funding from Government. The cuts the Government are making to Sheffield and other cities in the North are unfair. Sheffield Council has had to slash £140m from its budgets in the past two years, this year we have to identify a further £50m of cuts to balance our budget. These unfair Government cuts mean we have to take some tough decision in order to make the huge savings across Sheffield”. Councillor Isobel Bowler, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure wrote to the Government in the summer to notify them that Sheffield would have difficulty in continuing to subsidise this venue – a venue which we consider to be a regional resource and the financial burden of which can no longer be met solely by Sheffield council tax payers. No central funding has been made available. Councillor Denise Fox says “if Nick Clegg wanted it to stay open why didn’t he step in and help at this stage!”

In terms of ensuring that there are excellent training facilities for athletes in the future if Don Valley were to close we propose to re-open the Woodbourn Road venue which has a high quality track and other outdoor athletics training facilities. We have identified the capital funding required. The running costs are approximately 10% of the cost of Don Valley Stadium. This venue could be managed by our two city athletics clubs and the Council has been in discussions with them in the run up to bringing forward the Don Valley Stadium proposal. Councillor Bryan Lodge says “We have been advised that a re-opened Woodbourn Road can meet the needs of athletics training. The indoor training facility at the English Institute of Sport remains open. What we lose with Don Valley Stadium is the ability to hold major athletics events”. Sheffield have been outgunned for the next few years by other cities such as Birmingham (these events require the council to put in money – other cities were able to offer a more attractive package than we could). Once the Olympic stadium re-opens we see no realistic prospect of being able to compete with that venue (nor the Commonwealth facility in Glasgow). We will continue to have high profile world class events coming to the city – not least as you will be aware the Tour de France in 2014.

Nick Clegg and Lib Dems deliberate attempt to mislead the Sheffield public.

There’ve been so many stories in the media recently regarding the Council’s reserves that you’d think that Mr Clegg and his Lib Dem party in Sheffield would have checked their facts before launching in to their pathetic claims that Sheffield is sitting on huge reserves that could be used to protect front line services. In an open letter, Nick claims that Sheffield has £167m reserves, a figure he has taken from the Council’s ‘statement of accounts’ that has a line labelled ‘useable reserves’. What he conveniently failed to say was that many of these are earmarked to cover committed expenditure, some as the result of national legislation.  For example, it includes £26 million that we are looking after for, and belonging to, Sheffield’s schools; £25 million that can only be spent on council housing; and, £57 million that is committed to our ‘capital programme’ – the really big projects that span a number of years like rebuilding schools, new road schemes, major building repairs and so on. Government rules are very clear that we cannot spend this money on services. Other committed reserves for major capital projects, such as ‘Streetsahead’ of around £48million leave a true ‘useable reserves’ figure of around £11million. Now we could, in theory, use this money to support services, but would that be wise? To put this in context, when Sheffield was devastated by flooding a few years ago, the council spent over £7million that wasn’t recoverable from government compensation schemes; recent bad winters have seen an additional spend of over £2millon to support measures across the council. Our reserves are in fact equivalent to a household that spends £20,000 per year and keeps just £170 in case of emergencies. It makes sense to keep some cash back ‘just in case’.

Leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield, Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, seems equally inclines to mislead the public as he too has indicated that he would use reserves to support next year’s budget. Is this a case of misrepresentation of the facts, or an attempt to mislead the public? Or maybe it’s more an indication of just how little Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems in Sheffield understand about economic and accounting procedures. Time for Nick and Shaffaq to apologise, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.