As I write it is snowing. It has been bitterly cold for days. I was therefore not surprised to receive a number of letters from concerned local people about the plight of Rough Sleepers. They all follow a similar template:
I am unsure how big a problem this is in Southport, however I do regularly see beggars along Lord Street and my presumption is they are homeless.
is the council actively getting the message out to rough sleepers that shelter will be provided in the worst weather?
Is there a local policy for coordination with police, faith and community groups, town centre managers, neighbourhood and park wardens?
What are the existing accommodation resources and of these being fully utilised during this cold snap?
I am aware there is a best practice guide from Homeless Link: http://www.homeless.org.uk/sites/default/files/SWEP%20good%20practice%20note%202010_0.pdf
Please let me know what you're doing to help make sure no one has to sleep on a freezing street again tonight.
I had the opportunity to raise the issue with the police on Wednesday evening. They informed me that they had not noticed an increase in numbers and they spoke about the arrangements they had with the local authority. So next stop was to ask Sefton what their plans are, I receieved the following reply:
Description of Services for Rough Sleepers in Sefton
Cold Weather Provision
Sefton MBC has a well established Cold Weather Provision in partnership with Liverpool CC; this provision should mean that anyone rough sleeping has the opportunity to access overnight shelter and additional support.
This provision is available based on government set criteria i.e. when the temperature is estimated to be zero degrees Celsius or below for a period of 3 days or longer. Service and groups throughout the area are made aware of when the shelter is open.
The service is based in the Liverpool City Centre area and is hosted by a local church (St. Stephen’s with St. Catherine’s Church, Crown Street, Liverpool, L8) who allows the use of their church hall. The shelter is staffed by volunteers from homelessness groups and charities.
The service allows rough sleepers to shelter but does not provide beds. Any person accessing the shelter is given the opportunity of additional support the next morning via various homelessness groups and charities. Obviously the person has the opportunity to decline this assistance and in practice many do.
No Second Night Out
“No Second Night Out” (NSNO) is a scheme that originated in London and the government wants to see replicated nation-wide. Sefton is part of the Liverpool City Region “NSNO” protocol (the first outside London) that aims to get first time rough sleepers off the streets as soon as possible.
NSNO allows incidents of rough sleeping to be reported to a central co-ordinating point. The report can be made by statutory bodies, VCF groups, partner agencies or by members of the public.
NB the report made must be regarding a specific case of rough sleeping rather than a place to discuss general issues or concerns around rough sleeping in the Borough.
Once the referral is received staff from the Whitechapel Centre (the group contracted to undertake this work on behalf of the City region LA’s) will go out to the area where the rough sleeping is reported to occur and try to contact the person individually. If contact can be made they will offer him/her the range of options available to them on an individual basis. Again the person has the opportunity to decline this assistance and in practice many do because we must accept that many people sleep rough as a matter of choice. However the very nature of rough sleeping means that it is often difficult to make and maintain contact with a person who is rough sleeping.
Contact points are:
Telephone: 0300 1232041
Web site: http://www.whitechapelcentre.co.uk/n2no-referral.html
Sefton MBC in conjunction with Liverpool CC also provides a “sit up” service outside the times when the Cold Weather Service is not in operation. This service provides overnight shelter for people who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping where shelter is required for a short period (up to 3 days) whilst a longer term solution is secured. By definition the “sit up” service provides a shelter but no beds.
This service is provided by a range of homeless groups in the Liverpool City Centre area and the exact location of the service moves on a rota basis. The main groups are the Basement, Whitechapel Centre, and YMCA Liverpool.
Referrals to the Sit-up Service must be made via a recognised “homeless” agency.
Contact is via the Whitechapel Centre on 0151 207 8605.
All these schemes seek to end rough sleeping and provide support and assistance to the individuals with a view to moving into more permanent accommodation should they wish to.
I am not happy with that response. Southport is a seaside town and therefore has always attracted a population of homeless people. To offer accommodation miles away in Liverpool is not acceptable. I am grateful for the prompting of local resident, we must now push for better facilities based in Southport.