WMCA and council pledge to help rough sleepers this winter

Local authorities across the West Midlands have pledged to work together to help rough sleepers this winter.

Local authorities across the West Midlands have pledged to work together to help rough sleepers this winter as part of a coordinated regional response.

For the second year running the seven metropolitan authorities, in collaboration with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Homelessness Task Force, and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors, have drawn up a homelessness winter plan to help keep rough sleepers safe.

The plan provides a commitment that no one needs to sleep rough as shelters, hostels, and emergency accommodation will all be open and available as part of local authorities’ severe weather provision.

This commitment covers everyone, including pet owners, couples, those who have no recourse to public funds, people who may have previously been banned from support services, those with no local connection, and people with complex needs.

Also as part of the 2019 winter plan, people in the West Midlands will be able to alert local authorities to rough sleepers by contacting StreetLink.

Each council will then use their own plans and expertise to help rough sleepers, with outreach teams in the seven authorities of the WMCA area working rapidly to locate rough sleepers and support them into a place of safety.

Free bus tickets will also be available through a partnership with National Express West Midlands in Coventry to enable rough sleepers to access the support that they need to travel to accommodation.

WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman said: “This plan sets out our joint commitment to keep the most vulnerable people safe during the winter and to make every effort to engage individuals with appropriate services to help them move away from sleeping on the streets for good.

“We know that conditions during the winter that present the greatest risk to the health of people who sleep rough are low temperatures, strong winds, heavy rain and snow. We will do everything we can to ensure that there is a route off the streets for every single person who finds themselves there during severe weather.”

The winter plan follows on from a successful year for the region’s Housing First pilot, with more than 100 rough sleepers moving into permanent accommodation.

Over the winter, Housing First will help entrenched rough sleepers with the most complex needs to access accommodation alongside intensive support to enable them to recover from issues such as substance abuse.

Jim Crawshaw, head of housing and homelessness at Coventry City Council, said: “Agencies working with rough sleepers in Coventry do an excellent job and this is especially the case during the winter months when additional services are made available.

“With our partners, we have recently developed a rough sleepers strategy for the city which focusses on providing co-ordinated policies along with finding longer-term housing solutions.

“We want people who are on the street to feel valued but individuals will only engage with organisations when they are ready. We can’t make people take up offers of help – and in many cases, we need to be patient, as it is important that especially when temperatures drop that we persuade people to make use of the shelter being offered.”

The details of what is in place and support available to people can be found at Coventry City Council’s website here.