East Suffolk Council is to spend almost £300,000 providing accommodation for rough sleepers and those facing homelessness in Felixstowe and Lowestoft.
Following a successful application to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, East Suffolk Council has been awarded a total of £292,316 to help rough sleepers or those at risk of rough sleeping in the district.
This seems like a worthwhile project on the surface – yet an informal count by the Council over both districts this month found a total of 9 rough sleepers – yes 9! And with the cut backs in care for the elderly, those who struggle with dementia, and children and youth services to name but a few – this could be seen by some as rather an uneven distribution of resources.
However the funding will not just be used for emergency accommodation but be used to deliver two interlinking projects, which will provide specific housing ‘pathways’ for those who are vulnerable to homelessness, including people with mental health issues, those experiencing domestic abuse, ex-offenders and care leavers.
The first project, called ‘Somewhere Safe to Stay’, will provide emergency beds in ‘hubs’ in both Felixstowe and Lowestoft. Available for up to 72 hours, the emergency accommodation will ensure rough sleepers and people who may be at risk of homelessness are safe whilst also having their needs assessed and appropriate support made available. The funding will also provide for specialist workers to staff the hubs around the clock. The Council is currently working with both Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association and Access Community Trust to provide 9 emergency bed spaces in Lowestoft and Felixstowe.
The second project made possible through the funding will be a Supported Lettings scheme, which will see the Council employ dedicated officers to help former rough sleepers move on from emergency accommodation into supported, temporary or longer term housing.
Cllr Richard Kerry, East Suffolk’s Cabinet Member for Housing said: “We are committed to helping people who are rough sleeping or who find themselves facing imminent homelessness. Our existing work with local partners has already reduced the number of rough sleepers in the district and this funding will enable us to offer even more support to those in urgent housing need.”
This funding is in addition to £202,000 secured by the Council earlier this year through the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. This funding will enable the employment of new street outreach workers, a mental health practitioner and a rough sleeper coordinator. These staff will be solely focused on working with those sleeping on the streets, providing increased support and helping to find accommodation for those in need.
The Council’s housing team in partnership with Lowestoft Rising, Access Community Trust and Lowestoft Foodbank, successfully offered emergency accommodation and support for those facing homelessness over the winter months via the Thin Ice project. Between 1 November 2018 and 28 February 2019, over 80 people accessed emergency shelter through the project and of these, 21 now have permanent accommodation with Access Community Trust. The success of the Thin Ice project has enabled the Council to develop these services to be available all year round.
The project is expected to start in September 2019.