Agenda item

Rough Sleeping Strategy


Members were presented with the new Rough Sleeping Strategy 2023.  The purpose of this report was to provide the Housing Services Cabinet Committee with an overview of the Councils Rough Sleeping Strategy 2023-2025, to help achieve the Government’s target of reducing rough sleeping.


The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager explained that Gravesham had not had a standalone strategy before and now more than ever there was a great need for one.  She highlighted that the new Rough Sleeping Strategy would be published on the Council’s website, providing transparency, increasing awareness of the issue and informing the public of the Council’s approach on how rough sleeping would be tackled.  It was noted that a published strategy would facilitate collaboration between the Council and other stakeholders, including local businesses, community groups, and service providers.


The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager outlined key aims and objectives of the report which included:


·       Explaining how the Council work with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to meet the Government’s commitment to significantly reduce rough sleeping by 2027.

·       Reducing the number of people sleeping rough in the area

·       Providing support and accommodation for those sleeping rough

·       Working with local partners to offer further support to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

·       Offering tailored support to vulnerable individuals, such as mental health issues, substance abuse and those who have experienced domestic violence.


The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager informed the Committee that the Council had been successful in securing funding of £999,631 from the Rough Sleepers Initiative (RSI) along with £350,372 for long term accommodation support.  She advised Members that the funding from the RSI had facilitated recruitment of a new positions to assist with the cause, including a Rough Sleeping Initiative Manager, a Housing Resettlement Officer and Outreach Workers. The funding also provided budgets to assist with accommodation. 


Members were updated that the funding for the long-term accommodation support, had enabled the Council to invest in a 10 bedroom supported accommodation facility which also had the provision of 4 emergency rooms.


The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager concluded that the main focus of the strategy would be on prevention.  Activities were planned to support this at community events and hubs to offer advice to people who may be at risk of sleeping rough. Close collaboration with partners would also continue along with using Street Link reports to identify individuals who are reported to be sleeping rough.


Members were advised that section 5.2 of the strategy relating to who the Council’s Rough Sleeping Partners were, needed to be updated as The House of Mercy was unfortunately closing.


The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager drew Members attention to the action plan within the strategy, advising that it would be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis in order to keep information up to date.


The Chair thanked The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager for the report and invited Members to give feedback:


·       The Committee all welcomed the strategy, highlighting it was very positive standalone document for residents in Gravesham.


·       Members queried section 5.2 (Rough Sleeping Partners) and whether this should include Adult Social Care and the emergency services (Fire Service and Ambulance Service).  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager advised she would change this to add the other emergency services, however expressed that work had specifically been carried out with the Police and Probation Service.  Members were updated that the team had recently formed a good partnership with Adult Social Care, so they would also be added to the list in section 5.2. 


The Committee also suggested that domestic abuse partners be included within section 5.2.  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager informed Members that domestic violence was covered within the Housing Needs Strategy, however reference could be made, signposting the public to the Housing Needs Strategy.


·       In section 5.3 (support and assistance), it was suggested that help to obtain a bank account and assistance with gaining UK status should be included.  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager agreed this could be added along with the details for Street Link.


·       Members queried how Gravesham compared to other areas within Kent in relation to rough sleeping and expressed that the graph in section 4 of the report did not show a particular pattern.  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager informed Members that comparison to other boroughs was difficult as everyone had seen an influx of rough sleeping.  She expressed that a pattern was also hard to determine at this stage, as data prior to 2022 was not very accurate.  There had been an increase in rough sleeping and in September, KCC funding for supported accommodation was coming to an end.  The Director (Housing) added that a pattern was difficult to determine as there were many other external factors with the situation on the streets.


·       Members asked how the team would engage with individuals who were refusing help.  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager assured the Committee that the team tried different approaches to gain trust. The Rough Sleeping Partners also engaged where appropriate offering specialist support.  Members were informed that although some people did not want to receive help, the team always persevered and worked consistently with the individuals to gain information on their situation, along with gaining their trust.  The Chair echoed this praising the team for their continuous work.  Members felt this should be reinforced within the document to show how proactive the team were in engaging with the rough sleepers.


·       Reference was made to the action plan, item 3.4, in relation to working with KCC and Lookahead, which stated that work would continue with KCC until March 2024, however the Committee had been advised that this partnership was to end due to the withdrawal of funding.  The Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager advised that this date had now changed to 2023.  The Director (Housing) clarified that it was not the case that the team would no longer engage with KCC, the decision had been made to end the service and the Rough Sleeping Partnership Manager would continue to work with both KCC and Lookahead to mitigate any issues once the funding ended.


·       Members observed that the strategy included no mention of the success stories, which they felt should be identified for both the community and partners to see.  The Director (Housing) agreed and informed Members that feedback of the successes would be presented to Committee in a separate paper at a later date.


The Committee noted the report.



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