Council combats rough sleeping


The City of York's plan to combat rough sleeping

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By Tom Layton

THE DEPARTMENT OF Housing and Levelling Up has awarded the City of York Council £1,327,555 to combat homelessness and help people living on the streets as part of the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI). By 2020, it was estimated by York City Council that the average number of rough sleepers each night was three. However, with the cost of living crisis causing widespread financial difficulty, this number could fluctuate over the coming months.

The City of York Council’s current homelessness strategy, developed in coordination with the York Homelessness Forum, involves a housing option steam.The team performs various duties to combat homelessness, including giving advice to households undergoing a housing crisis, intervening to prevent inhabitants becoming homeless, and managing accommodation applications from homeless people. Much of the work done by the City of York Council with the funds awarded by the government is carried out by a team of workers known as Rough Sleeper Housing Navigators.

Rough Sleeper Housing Navigators are tasked with following up reports of people sleeping rough.This involves helping rough sleepers to move into accommodation and eventually get a tenancy of their own, as well as long term dedicated support for known rough sleepers. According to Simon on the Streets, a homelessness charity based in West Yorkshire, homlessness is an extremely dangerous condition to be in, with life expectancy dropping from 79 to 45 for men, and from 83 to 43 for women. It is estimated that 200,000 households in England alone are experiencing the worst effects of homelessness, including restricted or no access to sanitary products, food, clean clothes, period products and education.

In 1990, the UK government began the Rough Sleepers Initiative after a campaign by homelessness charity St Mungo’s, who organised a National Sleep Out Week, involving 30,000 people, to raise awareness of the issue. This led to the creation of the Rough Sleepers Unit in 1997, which was shut down in 2002 following a 70 percent reduction of rough sleeping in England. In 2018, the Rough Sleeping Initiative was created to fund councils in order to combat homelessness.

York City Council works in partnership with local organisations that provide support for people sleeping rough. Charities working in York to battle homelessness include Changing Lives, who lead York’s drug and alcohol service, and the Salvation Army, which help fight homelessness with pop-up accommodation, night shelters and outreach and addiction services. Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities, commented that funding helps with “ongoing work to prevent people resorting to unsafe sleeping outdoors, while also developing new ways of addressing the individual needs of each person we work with.”