Working together to end homelessness and rough sleeping in York

Earlier in April I was pleased to join the national Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping alongside representatives from local government, housing, health and homelessness bodies, to examine and learn the lessons from the emergency response which supported people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the start of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Government launched the Everyone In initiative, which sought to ensure that anyone who was sleeping on the streets was immediately provided with safe and secure accommodation.

This involved unprecedented collaboration between government at central, regional and local levels, alongside work between health and local authority housing colleagues to identify health and housing options for clients in real time. This resulted in immediate assessment of their health needs and positive moves for many clients. In many areas this work has continued with a coordinated approach to vaccinations and GP registrations.

Councils across the country are determined to build on the success of the Everyone In initiative, which has demonstrated what can be achieved when all parts of the public and voluntary sector work together to get people sleeping rough off the streets and into safe accommodation.

In joining the commission I will work to share learning from local government, from Liberal Democrat led councils and on York’s approach to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping. In York, intensive and personalised work by City of York Council and partners continues to offer support to rough sleepers and homeless families. The work is underpinned by the Council’s Homelessness Strategy, focusing on prevention, early intervention and local integrated services that step in when things go wrong. Beds are being offered in a wider variety of accommodation, supporting people to stay in their accommodation and to manage often complex needs that contribute to rough sleeping. This has been supported by over £433k funding secured from the Rough Sleeping Initiative as well as the extra capacity offered by James House, York’s newest purpose-built temporary accommodation, which opened last summer.

A few weeks ago I took the chance to visit our local branch of the Salvation Army to discuss ways we can imbed the lessons learned across this crisis. Staff from the council and many partners, including the Salvation Army, continue to work diligently to make sure nobody has to sleep rough in York. There are lessons we can learn from the emergency response regionally and nationally to tackle what remains a major issue across the country.

Over the coming months, we need a renewed focus on homelessness prevention – moving beyond homelessness services, and beyond a reactive response to need and vulnerability. A new focus on prevention must be about a broader plan of action – across the whole public sector – for delaying the onset of need through the renewal of stable, supportive, and inclusive communities.

Councils have led during this pandemic despite facing significant pressure on increasingly fragile services. We must also recognise the key role of central government in funding local government fairly and preventing homelessness. During the crisis, we have seen how national policy measures can play a vital role in preventing homelessness. Without lifting the six-month delay on eviction proceedings and local housing allowance rates, many more households would have undoubtedly faced the loss of their homes during the pandemic. Government must recognise their role as councils’ partners in homelessness prevention and build on this progress.

I am pleased to join colleagues and experts from across local government to make sure that as we move through the pandemic, the positive lessons of the emergency response and principles of joint working become part of our everyday practice.

* Keith Aspden has been the Councillor for Fulford Ward in York since 2003 and for Fulford and Heslington Ward since 2015. Since 2019 he is the Leader of City of York Council, and the Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee.

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  • Helen Dudden 17th Jun '21 - 10:06am

    In Bristol the container homes seem to be working very well.
    It would be a good idea to target the young homeless, before they are drawn into the ways of the streets.
    I believe one small success is better than a huge loss.

  • suzanne fletcher 17th Jun '21 - 11:00am

    Well done York or taking “Everyone In” in spirit as well as “just keeping within the law” as others are doing. the key is going to come when the Home Office list the ban on evicting asylum seekers with a negative decisions.
    They cannot be housed by the council or supported by public funds so a lot of partnership working with faith groups and the voluntary sector needed.

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