Councils and charities work together to help the homeless

For anyone who finds themselves homeless there are a number of organisations throughout the district to provide support.

The teams at Arun District Council work together to offer a holistic service to those who find themselves homeless.

Working closely with a whole range of partners, including physical and mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment services, probation, domestic abuse services, police, registered homeless charities and adult social care to ensure that every individual gets the right expert support.

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The corporate Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Team works corroboratively with both the council’s Housing Options Team and charitable homelessness services to identify those individuals who, whilst homeless/rough sleeping in the district, may also be causing anti-social behaviour in the community which is impacting on others.

‘Chichester District Council’s rough sleeper outreach team with partner at Stonepillow

Kristy is the council’s rough sleeper co-ordinator and is part of the Housing Options Team which assesses clients to look at what level of help they need.

She said: “I work closely with many organisations across the district who are key in supporting vulnerably housed or homeless individuals.

“The team have worked relentlessly throughout the pandemic with a rise in homeless cases who all needed to be assessed and accommodated.

“A lot of the work I carry out involves clients who do not have a statutory duty owed to them and who have very chaotic lifestyles, many of whom are difficult to engage with or refuse to approach services for support so it can be very challenging.”

Cllr Sutton, cabinent member for housing, licensing, communications and events at CDC

With the help of government funding, the council has formed the RSI (Rough Sleepers Initiative) team in partnership with Turning Tides and Stonepillow.

The three organisations cover the whole Arun district and have an outreach team which works out on the streets with clients to assess their needs, signpost and support them to relevant services and encourage them to work with the council and the RSI team to find suitable, safe and affordable accommodation.

The RSI team also has tenancy sustainment and prevention officers who continue to support clients once housed and can act as an advocate between the client and the landlord to ensure that the tenancy runs smoothly.

Many of these organisations and charities also work with clients who are at risk from becoming homeless to help prevent this from happening by supporting their needs.

The Arun Anti-Social Behaviour team and the Rough Sleeper Coordinator have received awards in recognition of their work to support vulnerable people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kristy said: “As the rough sleeper co-ordinator, I have an overview and insight into all services in the Arun area which are able to support and help individuals with varying needs and lifestyle challenges and am able to work closely with various agencies to ensure that wrap-around support is in place for some of the most challenging of clients.

“The role is not restricted to working within Arun, I work closely with surrounding areas and their rough sleeper co-ordinators as we have many clients who are transient and travel along the coast to different areas.

“We work together to ensure that support is available to clients regardless of what district they happen to be in on that day, which is no easy feat.”

As part of her role, Kristy also chairs various meetings such as the monthly rough sleepers panel and providers meeting where they discuss clients’ needs and suitable options for them.

She said: “I am lucky enough to work with so many teams and individuals across the district who have a passion for helping those in need and am astonished by the level of care, support and understanding so many groups and individuals put into their work.

“Collaboratively we have worked with, and supported, some really entrenched clients, achieving some incredibly positive outcomes for those involved.

“I am immensely proud of the work we all do together – there is no doubt that it’s challenging to say the least, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my job and I am very proud of what we do across Arun.”

The joint work the council has been doing to support vulnerable people in the district during the Covid-19 pandemic was recently recognised at the Sussex Police Award Divisional Awards.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Housing Options Team sourced emergency accommodation for around 60 households who were either sleeping rough, or at risk of sleeping rough.

These clients have continued to be supported by Kristy and partner agencies into longer-term accommodation.

The Rough Sleeping Team at Chichester District Council works closely with the charity HEART, a partnership of local churches in Chichester who want to play their part in helping some of the most vulnerable people.

Each day a team of volunteers provides a hot meal and a packed lunch to rough sleepers and homeless people at St Pancras Hall.

There are currently 30 volunteers who help cook and serve hot meals, as well as offering warmth and friendship to those in need.

Cllr Alan Sutton, the council’s cabinet member for housing, licensing, communications and events, said: “HEART and their dedicated team of volunteers do an amazing job supporting individuals and they play a key part in helping keep people off the streets in our district.

“What many people probably don’t realise is that they help to provide some structure to people’s lives. Clients can go there in the morning and get a good start to the day with a meal and conversation.

“Volunteers also signpost them to the wide range of support on offer to them by various partners in the district. By providing this vital service they are helping to prevent many people becoming street homelessness. The session gives some meaning to people’s day as well as providing somewhere where they can feel part of the community. The centre has a wonderful atmosphere and provides a positive start to a lot of clients’ days, which is extremely important.”

The team also works with Stonepillow and the Four Streets Project and has recently launched a Make Your Change Count campaign, which raises awareness of the different charities and how people can help by giving their change to charity, as not everyone on the street begging is homeless. And it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Cllr Sutton said: “The campaign has been successful in educating people about the work that is being done to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness. The members of the public that we have spoken to have been pleasantly surprised by the extent of the work being done and that all the organisations are working together and not in isolation.”

The Four Streets Project offers an evening provision that provides food and provisions, as well a meeting place for those who want engage positively with the local community.

It recently relaunched its service back at St Paul’s Church, Chichester, following a period based at Stonepillow, while renovation work took place.

Cllr Sutton added: “Although we have been able to help many people, there will always be those who choose to stay on the street.

“In these cases, our team will continue to reach out to them, keep in contact, earn their trust and encourage them to take up support when they are ready.

“Thanks to the combined effort of the partnership we have reduced rough sleeping hugely over the last 18 months which is a result of everyone working together.”

For more information on Make Your Change Count visist: chichester.gov.uk/makeyourchangecount