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Council preventing rough sleeping as winter begins to bite amid new national lockdown

Article date - 09 November 2020

As the temperature drops and a new England-wide lockdown impacts jobs and financial security, making homelessness a real threat for some, St Helens Borough Council is continuing its work to prevent rough sleeping.

COVID-19 presents a greater risk to the homeless and rough sleepers without access to medical advice, a prevalence of underlying health conditions, and the inability to self-isolate from others while living in shared sleeping spaces and night shelters.

In March, the council responded to a national request from government to get everyone sleeping rough off the streets and into safe and suitable accommodation by securing a number of rooms in local commercial hotels.

The government has not formally reinstated its eviction ban introduced during the first national lockdown, at a time when household income is at heightened risk.

However, landlords must now give six months’ notice for all but the most serious eviction cases – such as those involving anti-social behaviour, or pre-COVID-19 arrears.

The government has also asked bailiffs not to evict tenants during the national lockdown and between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021 in what has been labelled a ‘Christmas truce’.

The new lockdown announcement came shortly after St Helens Borough Council and its housing partner Torus were successful in a bid to government for £1,134,083 funding to provide interim and long-term ‘next steps’ accommodation for rough sleepers or those who have slept rough or been homeless.

During the initial lockdown period St Helens Borough Council and its partners assisted more than 100 people into safe accommodation on a temporary basis, while working to secure more long-term accommodation to reduce the risk of people returning to life on the streets. 

Aiming to prevent homelessness, the council's Housing Options & Advice Service has operated throughout these difficult times and has placed a number of families into emergency accommodation while helping them to secure long-term housing solutions.

Meanwhile a new ‘rough sleeper navigator’ has been enrolled within the council’s outreach services, after another successful bid for funding. The post commenced in September and manages a case load of specific rough sleepers to support them and assist in navigating through the system.

Throughout this work, the council has partnered with a range of agencies including the Salvation Army, St Helens YMCA and Whitechapel Assertive Outreach, which carries out daily street checks within borough to identify and assist rough sleepers. 

The council has also worked alongside and provided additional funding to the Teardrops and Hope House charities, while commissioned services such as Change, Grow, Live (CGL) have continued to support people placed in emergency accommodation with food deliveries and access to health, wellbeing and recovery services.

Councillor Jeanie Bell, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said: “We don’t want to see anyone forced to sleep rough. It’s important that residents know there are accommodation options available for all, and that we’re continuing to work to prevent homelessness.

“As we enter this second national lockdown, we will continue to do everything we can to accommodate new rough sleepers during the winter and help those already off the streets into safe, long-term accommodation with the appropriate support.”

The council’s Housing Options and Advice Service can provide you with the advice and information that you need, should you lose or be at risk of losing your accommodation. Visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/housing or call 01744 675150, or 0845 0500148 for emergency, out of hours support.

Residents can report people they suspect may be rough sleeping via the StreetLink website www.streetlink.org.uk, or through the council’s Contact Centre online or by telephone on 01744 676789.

If you think the person you are concerned about is under 18 please do not contact StreetLink. Instead call Merseyside Police on the non-emergency 101 number.