Walsall Council has commissioned an independent review of the borough’s homelessness services, which will identify where additional services are needed, and inform the new Walsall Homelessness Strategy in 2018. One area where we are already improving services is help for rough sleepers in Walsall. From December we will be launching a new ‘Housing First’ pilot scheme involving the local authority and its partner, Accord Housing. At the same time we are opening up a new night shelter for the next 3 months in partnership with Black Country YMCA and community volunteers.
The 12 month Housing First scheme, which begins on 27 November and is worth £49,931, will offer a more permanent, sustainable home solution for rough sleepers in the borough as opposed to housing them in temporary hostels or shelters. One of the project’s main aims is to tackle the underlying causes of rough sleeping, identifying the factors that led them to live on the streets and provide individual support for people with complex needs.
Walsall’s initiative will provide accommodation and support for up to 10 rough sleepers, and is similar to the model introduced in Finland in 2008 which has seen a significant fall in long-term homelessness.
Councillor Sean Coughlan, Walsall Council Leader said: “I’m really pleased that as a Council, we’ve secured Accord Housing to deliver this project, which is about supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Walsall. We’re working very hard with our partners to address homelessness in the borough. Preventing it in the first place will always be the better and more cost-effective option.
“First and foremost, it’s about ensuring that rough sleepers have somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night during the winter period which is why we’ve opened the night shelter for 3 months this time but it’s also about finding long-term sustainable support for them, understanding how they’ve ended up in this position and giving them the best possible chance to turn their lives around. Housing First is a model that is being looked at nationally, and I’m proud that we will have a pilot up and running in Walsall from next month and will look to share lessons learnt with other West Midlands councils.”
Elisabeth Buggins, Chair of Accord, said: “Housing First is an innovative housing solution for people with multiple and complex needs, including homelessness. It differs from other approaches to supporting homeless people as individuals are provided with a home first, and this secure housing is seen as a stable platform from which other issues can be addressed.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Walsall Council to deliver this innovative project; Accord, as one of the leading housing and care associations in the West Midlands, will bring to Housing First the very best of expertise and experience in providing housing and support for vulnerable people.”
Figures compiled last year revealed that there are around 25 rough sleepers on the streets of Walsall. Currently, daytime support services are provided through The Glebe Centre on the outskirts of Walsall Town Centre. The Council has reintroduced its Night Shelter service which begins on 1 December for 3 months.
Walsall Council will continue to work with partners across the region to further develop its Housing First services and share examples of best practice from its pilot.