A council support team, which has dramatically reduced the number of people rough sleeping, is to receive additional funds to continue its work.
West Suffolk Council’s Rough Sleeper Support Team was set up in September 2018 and includes expertise in mental health and addiction support. The team of seven works with rough sleepers to help them get the support and accommodation they need. It also intervenes when things go wrong, to try to prevent people from losing their place in accommodation and returning to rough sleeping.
That work, coupled with investment by West Suffolk Council to secure different types of accommodation to better meet rough sleeper needs, has seen a continuing reduction in the number of people who are rough sleeping.
Across the whole of West Suffolk there are now eight rough sleepers, compared to 36 in September 2018. This includes four rough sleepers in Bury St Edmunds compared to 25 when the team was first formed. The latest figures come after an early morning count on Wednesday last week, coupled with checks against the information held by partner organisations. The council warns however that this is just a snapshot and the number of people rough sleeping can fluctuate.
West Suffolk Council has once again successfully bid for money from the Government’s Rough Sleeper Initiative and has been given more than £450,000 for 2020/21.
Sara Mildmay-White, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “While the team has made huge achievements in helping people get support and accommodation, there are still people who are rough sleeping, some of them live precariously and we cannot afford to be complacent.
“A large part of the team’s work is about stepping in and working with people to prevent them, for whatever reason, losing a place in accommodation and returning to rough sleeping. Our work with them, and with the people who are still out rough sleeping, is ongoing. The council can only help people when they are willing to accept the help on offer but we continue to do all that we can. That is why it is really important to have secured this Government funding so that this crucial work can continue.”
The Government funding also includes specialist support accommodation that the council has in place as well as the creation of a new role to work one on one with people who are stuck in a cycle of homelessness. These are people that the council has helped on numerous occasions into temporary accommodation but their pattern of behaviour, which includes street drinking, aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour, sometimes sees them return to rough sleeping.
West Suffolk Council and Suffolk Police with the support of Our Bury St Edmunds, has been working together to address an issue of street drinking and anti-social behaviour in Bury St Edmunds town centre, an issue which heightens in the warmer months.
Robert Everitt, Cabinet Member for Families and Communities, said: “There was lots of concerns raised by residents and businesses about the impact of street drinking, aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour last summer and we are working to try to ensure we don’t have a repeat of that later this year. While many of the individuals concerned were not rough sleepers, we recognise this has a huge impact on the town in terms of people’s perceptions and fears. There’s also a risk that the people causing these issues could end up as rough sleepers once more. We want to prevent that from happening by helping these people and so we are delighted that our funding bid has been successful.”
If you see or suspect someone is rough sleeping please report it at www.streetlink.org.uk – our rough sleeper support team will then get an alert and, if they are not already working with that individual, they can go out and speak to them to try to get them the support and accommodation that they need. You can also report rough sleeping by telephoning 01284 757178.
Pictured above are members of the West Suffolk Council Rough Sleeper Support Team with Sara Mildmay-White.