Second Step lent its voice to other city agencies and businesses who have pledged to do more in response to Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees’ challenge to create 100 beds in 100 days from January to 10 April 10 in order to reduce homelessness.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: “Homelessness is a huge issue in our city and a daily reminder of the glaring inequalities which confront us. Positive progress has been made in the light of the challenge I set for this winter. People have stepped forward to be involved - new bedspaces have been created and I’m very grateful for that. We have seen what we can achieve when the city works together towards to tackle some of our toughest challenges. We will harness the energy around this work to do even more as we aim to make Bristol a city in which everyone has a home. I appreciate everyone’s efforts this winter and look forward to continuing our work.”
The Mayor set the City Office the challenge to bring the city together to help some of the most vulnerable people in the city. In response:
· 34 new bed-spaces have been created during the 100 days and will last much longer.
· Two buses have been offered for conversion into accommodation which will provide 20 additional bed-spaces starting in Autumn 2017.
· Two properties that would have provided 68 additional bed-spaces during the 100 days were offered but the offers had to be declined because the resources to provide the support were not available.
More resources need to be committed so we are in a stronger position for next winter to accept offers.
The last official rough sleeper count in November 2016 observed 74 people sleeping on Bristol’s streets on a single night.
The City Office has worked on five initiatives so far. The most successful of these is enabling people to move out of supported housing into Housing Association properties, enabling rough sleepers to take up hostel places. To date, 24 flats have been offered.
Last week, one client moved into his first permanent home for over 10 years with United Communities. After a difficult marriage breakdown, he was homeless. Unable to work, he lost contact with his family and lived on the streets. Three years ago he moved into temporary accommodation. United Communities have enlisted the help of a number of local charities to help furnish and decorate Mr N’s new flat. Jayne Whittlestone, Communities Manager at United Communities commented: “We really hope Mr N can make a fresh start and start work in his chosen career. He’s told us the 100 beds project has given him the help he and others so badly need to get them re-connected to life.”
The second area has been the successful use of charity guardianship properties. This is where council owned properties which are lying empty are converted for use for those with low support needs. So far, the City Office focus has allocated 10 additional bed-spaces to be created in a new charity guardianship property and more properties are coming up all the time.
The third area of work is with Golden Key who are developing a Housing First approach which surrounds those with complex needs with the support necessary for them to stay off the streets and access services. People often struggle to maintain a home when they are wrestling with a range of challenges and this approach guarantees them a place to stay. 10 of these places are due to go live shortly in Bristol.
The fourth area is additional night shelters. If we had more money we could have converted two large properties which were available into suitable dormitory type accommodation for 68 homeless guests. In response we are developing a revenue fund and planning for next year to draw on a wide pool of volunteers to reduce the funds needed to support the shelters.
The final area, where the initiative has struggled, is in providing more beds for supported housing. This is due to a lack of resources.
The City Office has learned three lessons and has three areas for future work. These are:
1. Delivering affordable housing, particularly social housing, is a big challenge due to caps in housing benefit and levels of Local Housing Allowance.
2. People and businesses in the city want to support ending homelessness, but need targeted requests and more resources
3. The City Office is a positive collaboration between different agencies producing action learning around the challenges and providing a range of different housing models
Three areas the City Office will be taking forward are:
1. Creating a range of extra bedspaces including two buses to be converted into flexible accommodation for homeless people, 10 more spaces in charity guardianship schemes and a new 12 bed night shelter
2. Working on joined up public campaigns to galvanise support for getting people off the streets and into sustainable accommodation as well as a livelihoods programme to support formerly homeless people getting into work
3. Investing in long term system change around barriers to getting people off the streets supporting the Golden Key initiative
The private and independent sectors are engaging with offers of pro bono services and the City Office is working with agencies and people across the city to effect lasting change.
David Relph, City Office director, said: “The City Office is a way to try and bring together the capabilities and resources we have in Bristol to address tough and difficult challenges. We have learned a huge amount in a very short time and will continue to work to reduce homelessness. We renew our call to the city to work together and develop new solutions to tackle this key issue.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Other organisations involved in the City Office include Bristol City Council, Bristol and Bath Regional Capital, Business West, Golden Key, United Communities Housing Association, St Mungo’s and Crisis Centre Ministries.
There are high numbers of people moving into accommodation and new people finding themselves rough sleeping. Between 1,200-1,400 people a year experience rough sleeping in Bristol, and 100 people every quarter are new to rough sleeping in the city. The main reasons are relationship breakdown and eviction, exacerbated by a critical lack of affordable housing in Bristol.