News / homelessness

Bristol’s homelessness crisis: what next?

By ellie pipe, Friday Sep 25, 2020

An ambitious project aiming to solve homelessness for good has been launched in Bristol.

Seizing what has been hailed a “once in a generation opportunity” to provide the holistic support required to help people off the streets and into secure housing, the council, NHS and charities are combining efforts with this year-long scheme.

Change for Good, led by Golden Key and guided by people with lived experiences of homelessness, will “redefine” the city’s approach and set out a plan for joined-up working, as opposed to the current “fragmented” system in which too many individuals fall through the cracks.

The project will run alongside the drive to secure more move-on accommodation – work for which Bristol City Council has recently received a £1.9m boost from central government, to ensure some of the most vulnerable people housed under the emergency ‘Everyone In’ initiative don’t end up back on the streets.

But the efforts come amid fears of a new wave of people being made homeless due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic and an end to the ban of evictions.

Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Bristol West MP and shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said it is “scandalous” that the Government is lifting the ban on evictions just as we are heading into a second wave of coronavirus.

“The chief medical officer and 16 public health bodies and charities warned of a rise in covid-19 infections if the government forces people into homelessness or overcrowding,” said Debbonaire.

She added: “We are likely to see a rise in evictions and homelessness because of this government incompetence. The Government must act now to stop a wave of evictions.”

Charity leaders have echoed calls for the Government to provide more support for those facing homelessness, and to do more to mitigate against the devastating impact of evictions and end homelessness for good.

St Mungo’s volunteers have helped 467 people into emergency accommodation – photo courtesy of St Mungo’s

St Mungo’s was contracted by the council to run Bristol’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, which helped 467 people who were rough sleeping or in communal night shelters to isolate safely in hotels or other emergency accommodation and supported 186 to move into longer-term housing.

Praising the success of the scheme, the charity’s chief executive, Steve Douglas CBE, said: “There is now, I think, a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that what we have learnt through the pandemic is not lost but informs and shapes the sector’s thinking on the next steps and longer term solutions for those who need help.

“Everybody who has slept rough deserves the support they need and a home for good.”

Charity leaders are calling for government support to build on progress in tackling homelessness – photo courtesy of St Mungo’s

The £1.9m received by the council, from a £91.5m national pot, will be used towards the costs of current emergency accommodation in the city, as well as helping seek longer-term solutions to reduce homelessness in Bristol.

Helen Godwin, Bristol City Council’s cabinet member for women, families and homes, said the money will help with the development of plans to get the right support, services and move-on accommodation in place so that no one has to return to the street.

But it follows a decade of austerity that has seen nearly £1bn cut from councils’ budgets for homelessness services since 2008, funding that hasn’t been replaced by the coronavirus response.

Douglas warned that without “a significant increase in investment”, these vital services will not be able to cope with demand, and the Government is unlikely to keep its commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024.

Determined to build on work done during the pandemic to support vulnerable people, those leading the Change for Good project are focusing on coordinating services.

Currently, a person who is experiencing homelessness tends to interact with a range of services including housing, social care, physical and mental health support and drug rehabilitation. The fragmented system, whereby each service operates independently, means that people with multiple complex needs often fall through the gaps.

Golden Key, in partnership with Bristol City Council and the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), will create a plan for how the system can work better in future.

John Simpson says a person-centred, holistic approach is vital to tackling homelessness – photo ©MSP/Golden Key

John Simpson, the independent chair of the Golden Key Partnership Board, said: “Our work has demonstrated again and again that to ensure our clients lead fulfilling lives, we need to reach across organisational boundaries and work collaboratively.

“If we are serious about wanting to solve homelessness, we need to provide person-centred support which addresses all of a person’s needs holistically.”

Read more: Charities urge people to seek support early amid fears of worsening homelessness crisis

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