Figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) today reveal that during an evening count last Autumn there were 57 people sleeping rough in Birmingham.
This is an increase of two people or 3% from 2016’s figure of 55. Although we recognise that this figure is a snapshot of just one night in November 2016, it does offer a good idea on trends.
Cllr Sharon Thompson, ambassador for rough sleeping and homelessness said: “We are pleased that Birmingham is no longer in the top ten UK cities for the highest number of rough sleepers.
This is the first time in four years where we haven’t seen a big increase in rough sleepers and is testament to all of the hard work our partners and Birmingham City Council have put into eradicating homelessness in the city. We continue to address the complex issues relating to rough sleeping and in response have introduced new services, including the introduction of couples rooms, dog rooms and the Street Intervention Team service, which have really helped our users.”
The Street Intervention Team is changing the story of a lady in her 40s who has been sleeping rough on and off for 10 years. The first step was to build her trust with daily contact with the team. By finding out why she was rough sleeping and what she needed, the team were able to discuss various options available to her. She was allocated a support worker who helped her make a plan, access benefits and obtain ID. Then she made several trips to accommodation to try out the service and help her adjust to life in a home. By taking each step at herown pace, she felt comfortable with the changes and is still in the accommodation more than two months later. The lady said : “I keep thinking of how I will cope indoors after being on the streets for ten years. I am still learning to handle myself and to process things in my head.”
The annual rough sleeper count gives the government information on where rough sleeping is on the increase and which local authorities are being successful in combating it.
Cabinet member for Housing and Homes Cllr Peter Griffiths, added: “We recognise that we still have a challenge ahead of us to achieve our vision of eradicating homelessness in Birmingham, including the number of people rough sleeping. Since the rough sleeper count was taken, we have published our Homelessness Prevention Strategy, with a focus very much on intervention and trying to stop rough sleeping and homelessness from occurring in the first place.
“We are now working with MHCLG and the West Midlands Combined Authority on the details of the new Housing First pilot scheme which will be launched shortly. We are also developing the new Streetlink Birmingham app, in our drive to be a leading local authority in providing innovative solutions to rough sleeping.”
Jean Templeton Chief Executive of St Basils, who work with young people who are homeless or at risk said, “Rough sleeping is the very sharp end of homelessness and sadly, the tip of the iceberg. Only by a collective focus on prevention and ensuring people have access to decent affordable housing with appropriate support, can we make sure that no one sees sleeping on the streets as their best or only option. Local partners across all sectors are committed to making sure that’s a reality.”
Anyone who sees someone they think is sleeping rough is advised to contact StreetLink who will arrange for an outreach worker to meet them and encourage them to take up offers of support. The council is working with outreach teams, health workers, the police and voluntary sector to support people on the streets in the city centre. You can find out more by following @StreetTeamBham.