New strategy to tackle rough sleeping in Northampton set to be discussed
Northampton Borough Council cabinet members are set to discuss proposals for a new strategy to tackle, prevent and reduce rough sleeping in Northampton.
The new strategy, ‘Together We Change Lives’, is designed to end the need for people to sleep rough in Northampton and marks a fresh approach that has been supported and inspired by more than 30 local services and organisations who have all pledged to work differently to tackle, prevent and reduce rough sleeping.
According to Government figures, an average of 3,500 people slept rough in England each night in 2015. This was 30% higher than in 2014 and more than twice the number of people who were sleeping rough in England five years ago.
In Northamptonshire, the average number of people sleeping rough in 2015 was estimated to be 61 and, of these, 25 were sleeping rough in Northampton. The most recent count in Northampton was taken in March 2016 when a team of 32 volunteers took part in the town’s rough sleepers count, covering all the wards in the borough between midnight and 3am. During the count a total of 21 people were seen sleeping rough.
Although the number of people sleeping rough in Northampton reduced significantly when Oasis House (a 48-bed supported housing scheme for single homeless people) opened in 2012, the new proposals put forward that the sharp and visible rise in the number of rough sleepers in recent years means that a fresh, innovative, multi-agency approach is required to take the complex issue.
The proposals also reveal that although sleeping rough is dangerous and detrimental to people’s physical and mental health, Northampton now has an established community of people who are choosing to sleep rough as a lifestyle choice and are resolutely refusing to leave the streets, despite intervention from various agencies.
Councillor Stephen Hibbert, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have held several multi-agency workshops in Northampton, with more than 30 local services and organisations in attendance. All agreed that, as a collective, we are spending too much time dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes of rough sleeping and homelessness. The consensus from the workshops was that there is a need for services and organisations to be a lot more persistent and assertive in the work they do and to make it clear that sleeping rough is not a lifestyle that Northampton is prepared to sustain.”
The proposed strategy includes a target to reduce rough sleepers in Northampton to less than 10 by November this year. Plans also include setting up a temporary night shelter at the recently purchased former British Rail Social Club in St Andrew’s Road with the capacity to offer people sleeping rough in Northampton emergency shelter until they are able to move into settled housing.
Councillor Mary Markham, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “This is a thorough, ambitious and innovative strategy and, with so many services and organisations all working together to tackle the issue of rough sleeping, is an excellent example of partnership working. We want to end the need for anyone to sleep rough in Northampton and we believe this proposed strategy will go a long way to change lives and creative positive outcomes for rough sleepers.”
Cabinet will discuss the proposals when it meets on Wednesday 8 June at 6pm. Full details on the proposals can be found online at: http://www.northamptonboroughcouncil.com/councillors/documents/g7950/Public%20reports%20pack%20Wednesday%2008-Jun-2016%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10