Extraordinary multi-agency team effort ensures that Northampton’s rough sleepers have somewhere safe to stay when they move out of the hotels
For the past three months, people who were sleeping rough or staying in the town’s nightshelters have been protected from COVID-19 by being housed, fed and supported in two Northampton hotels.
Since 27 March, more than 140 people have spent at least one night in the hotels and almost 80 of these have been helped to move on into settled housing.
Today (1 July), 26 of the rough sleepers who are still living in the two hotels will move into one of the University of Northampton’s halls of residence. The other three rough sleepers are due to move into settled housing within the next few days, so will be accommodated in a local guest house for one or two nights.
All of this has only been possible due to the strong and effective partnership relationships between Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Hope Centre, the Northampton Association for the Accommodation of the Single Homeless (NAASH) and a wide range of other local services and organisations.
Members of this Single Homelessness Forum, including Churches Together in Northampton, have been talking regularly with one another about the action required to ensure that everyone who is homeless is protected from COVID-19 and receives the help they need to move on successfully into settled housing.
Everyone who is accommodated in the hall of residence will be provided with breakfast and an evening meal, toiletries, fresh clothing, a regular laundry service and access to a joined-up drug and alcohol treatment and support service.
In order to confirm what move-on options are available to rough sleepers who were originally from Eastern Europe, the Single Homelessness Forum is working closely with International Lighthouse CIC (a Northampton-based community interest company) which will use native speakers to provide people from Eastern Europe with specialist immigration and welfare benefits advice.
Since moving into the hotels 14 weeks ago, most of the people who have a history of sleeping rough – including many of Northampton’s most entrenched rough sleepers – have made huge, positive changes in their lives and seized the opportunity to receive the help, support and housing they need.
Throughout July and August – when they are living in the hall of residence – the rough sleepers will continue to receive the help and support they need to stabilise their situation and prepare for independent living.
Although some people do remain on the streets, the complex reasons for this are being addressed and attempts continue to be made to encourage them to engage with the services that can help and support them.
Revd Sue Faulkner, the Chair of the Single homelessness Forum, said: “I am incredibly proud and impressed by everyone’s efforts and the willingness of organisations to work together to keep rough sleepers safe and provide each of them with the right solution.
“At the beginning, our priority was to ensure that everyone was safe and indoors. The Travelodge and the Holiday Inn have been wonderful and all of their staff and managers deserve our thanks for their warm welcome and their willingness to help.
“This ambitious and fast-moving initiative has shown us that homelessness is not inevitable and that we need to keep offering help and support in order that, when people are ready to make the changes in their lives, the support is there for them. It has also shown us that there is hope for everyone even if they are not yet able to see it for themselves.
“One of the services I would like to see introduced in Northampton is some form of befriending that can be offered to those who have appreciated the social interaction of being in a hotel but have now moved on to other housing. We do not want anyone to feel lonely and struggle. A befriending service may be something that local faith groups and voluntary organisations can be encouraged to consider.”
One guest said: “I love life now, knowing that I CAN say NO to drugs and know the signs of when I am falling. I can walk away from trouble and do not get involved. I was never able to do that before. It has given me the extra strength to push myself and I have calmed down.
Another added: "All of the staff support has got me to where I am today – finding me when I am having a bad day, phoning me to keep me on track and checking how I am feeling. I couldn’t have done this without them all.
“I was sleeping rough in the back of my car for several weeks, drinking too much. At the time I was feeling really low and suicidal, I don’t even remember getting to the hotel.
"I have now managed to cut down my drinking with the support of the staff. I really do feel like it is the best support I have received over the years, it really is excellent.
"I am getting all the help I need from all the different agencies that come to the hotel. I have support 24hrs a day any time that I need it. The staff at the hotel have been very courteous and I have everything I need to help myself to get to a better place.”