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City rallies together to support rough sleepers

Published Wednesday, 22 December 2021

The Council’s rough sleeper outreach team and partner agencies in the city are reminding local people what to do if they see someone sleeping rough - especially during severe winter weather.

Pictured from right to left: Sophie Hall (Coventry City Council), a representative from the Coventry City Centre McDonalds branch and Cllr David Welsh. The picture is outside the front of McDonalds and features a change into action donation point
Pictured from right to left: Sophie Hall (Coventry City Council), a representative from the Coventry City Centre McDonalds branch and Cllr David Welsh

This time of year, the Council operates a severe weather protocol (SWEP) when everyone and anyone regardless of status, previous history, and regardless of a local connection to the city can access accommodation on the night.

The Council’s outreach team, which has grown over the past 18 months, know that there are a few people who won’t normally engage – and at this time extra efforts are made to actively locate them and make arrangements for them to access accommodation.

All local authorities trigger severe weather provision in line with individual local arrangements, taking into account Met Office yellow weather warnings where appropriate.

In Coventry the Council and other agencies provide individuals with a safe place to stay and allow an intensive assessment of needs.

Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, said that the Council’s outreach team regularly talk to entrenched rough sleepers and work really hard to persuade them to make use of accommodation that is available.

He said: “We increased our rough sleeper outreach team from three people to nine people and the team is continuing to grow through additional funding and the creation of specialist roles to actively identify and support people who are street homeless and to help rough sleepers to stay in the accommodation that is available.

Cllr Welsh added: “We have a range of accommodation options to use to support people. If someone has got no home or friends or family to stay with and has no option but to rough sleep, the outreach team will look to engage them at the earliest opportunity.”

The outreach team and other agencies work from 6am when they conduct an outreach walk until 5 pm. The Salvation Army is staffed 24 / 7 and if an individual presents they will be supported to call the out of hours provision.

Alongside the outreach team the Council also has a housing and homeless prevention team ready to respond Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. There contact number is 024 7683 4025.

Over Christmas the out of hours services will operate from 5pm on Friday 24 December to 9am on Wednesday 29 December.

This service will also operate from 5pm on Friday 31 December to 9am on Tuesday 4 January. The frontline homeless service will reopen at 9am on Tuesday 4 January.

When the team is not there an emergency on call system is in place so that the local authority can make arrangements to accommodate people who find themselves homeless on the night. This is further supplemented via a rough sleeping on call service during the winter months.

The public can let the team know of the whereabouts of someone rough sleeping via the Streetlink website. 

These reports come directly through to the rough sleeper team who will physically go and look for those reported, assessing those we find for accommodation and responding to their immediate needs.

During the early period of the Covid pandemic, a nationwide response across local authorities, including Coventry, called ‘Everyone In’ provided emergency accommodation for thousands of rough sleepers.

At this time the Council’s rough sleeper team worked out of hotels and supported 310 people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness - finding somewhere to live for 260 of these. This was with the support of The Salvation Army, Cyrenians, Private Landlords and a range of other accommodation providers.

More than 100 people had no recourse to public funds and many were supported to gain UK status so they could access accommodation, work, and benefits.

Cllr Welsh added: “We have had a great deal of success in directing people who may have complex needs including mental health issues or drug dependency into supported accommodation and this has been evident over the past year and half.

“Building on the learning and the opportunity that the “Everyone In” directive gave us we have recognised that - to achieve our ambition to end rough sleeping - the teams work needs to focus more on prevention and recovery, whilst still maintaining our ability to respond and support people in crisis. Our approach to partnership working with other agencies is crucial to this work.

“The current outreach team is multi-functional, including specialist roles and projects that tackle the local issues we see in Coventry including a: complex women’s navigator, a navigator working with Non-UK residents who have no recourse to public funds; a drug and alcohol treatment specialist; and a mental health community worker.”

The Council has also developed and delivered joint projects and new job roles with Mental Health services, The Salvation Army, CGL (Change, Grow, Live), CRMC (Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre), Langar Aid, Probation, The Gateway and Public Health.

He added: “Regardless of how entrenched the individual is we will never turn our backs and will continue to support individuals with their wider needs whether it is a Mental Health issue or substance misuse."

Public support and donations

  •  People can also make contactless donations of £3 to help provide support to people who are sleeping rough. The scheme called Change into Action covers things like rental deposits for permanent accommodation to new clothing and training for jobs.
  • Agencies apply on behalf of rough sleepers to receive a payment to purchase goods or services that will - either prevent rough sleeping - or assist to move somebody into accommodation.
  •  Dozens of people have been helped by the scheme. Payment consoles are available at Coventry Building centre, High Street and McDonalds, Cross Cheaping, and at Timpson in Broadgate.
  •  A web page coordinates public donations, with Feeding Coventry - a local charity, working to distribute the money raised by the public, directly to rough sleepers
  •  During Christmas Week ‘Open Christmas’ will be providing a place for shelter and food for people who are homeless or lonely from 8am till 10pm every day at Queen’s Road Baptist Church.
  •  The Council’s rough sleeper outreach team have been providing take away food and presents to people they support.
  •  Crisis Skylight have been running a wellbeing week for their members and will be doing a meal Xmas day as will Cyrenians.

 

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