A Herefordshire man who slept rough for over 20 years has been interviewed by the BBC.
Stephen also sent a letter to Herefordshire Council thanking support workers for helping him get back on his feet. Herefordshire’s rough sleep support team will continue their work thanks to government funding recently secured by the council.
Lee Davis, Herefordshire Council’s head of prevention and support services, is in buoyant mood. Not only has his department secured new rounds of government funding to help teams continue their work, he recently received a letter from a former rough sleeper thanking his staff for their support in getting him off the streets and into a home of his own.
Stephen, who wrote the letter to the council, was interviewed by the BBC, which covered the issue of rural homelessness on its Breakfast show this morning (Wednesday 28 September). The story is also expected to be covered online by the broadcaster this week.
Lee Davis says:
“The news items focus on a project on rural homelessness by Kent and Southampton universities. Researchers interviewed Stephen as part of that work. Stephen has also been invited to sit on a panel that discusses rural homelessness. This means he can continue to provide researchers with his first-hand experience of the challenges people like him face.
“I haven’t yet seen the TV coverage. But I doubt it will move me as much as Stephen’s letter did. In it, he talks about having ‘zero confidence’ when he moved into one of our temporary shelters. It’s a very eloquent letter in which Stephen thanks everyone who supported him away from a very bleak outlook to one where he feels he can look forward to a life of genuine optimism. A life without drugs and in a place of his own. Every sentence he wrote made me feel the work our teams do is worthwhile.”
Herefordshire Council was successful in bids to secure two types of government funding that will help the county’s rough sleepers. The council’s rough sleeping initiative (RSI) was awarded £2,072,329 to fund the services it provides for the three years 2022-25.
The council’s bid for a rough sleeping, drug and alcohol treatment grant (RSDATG) was also successful. This gives the council £373,664 for 2022-23 and £521,328 for 2023-24 to fund support services.
How funding will be used
The department for levelling up, housing and communities’ (DLUHC) money will be used to fund new and existing staff members as well as a number of new services.
This will allow the existing, three-strong outreach team to continue to work with the county’s rough sleepers and those likely to be homeless when leaving hospitals and prisons. The team will get support from a translator service to help them communicate with people who don’t have English as their first language.
An RSI coordinator will also be appointed to work with the outreach team and partner agencies and groups to deliver the council’s Project Brave/ Breaking the Cycle initiatives, designed to help rough sleepers.
An additional Talk Community team member will help identify those at risk of losing their home. The new team member will work with clients and, where possible, their landlords/ladies to minimise the likelihood of this happening.
The council will continue to work with partner agencies and charitable groups to provide winter accommodation and make homelessness and rough sleeping in Herefordshire rare, brief and non-recurring.
Funding will also be used to pay staff at a number of supported accommodation settings across Hereford, where six team members, working at four venues, provide accommodation for 40 people.
Drug and alcohol treatment success
The rough sleeping drug and alcohol treatment grant (RSDATG) will also be used to fund services that help those affected.
Our homeless health audit found 102 people in this group. Among the county’s homeless population, 75 per cent were reported to have mental health issues; 18 per cent suffered from severe mental health issues and substance use; 44 per cent admitted to using class A drugs, prescription drugs or other (non-cannabis) drugs.
Herefordshire made good ground during the recent pandemic, helping 200 people with accommodation. The council has continued to help those affected, which has reduced the number of rough sleepers in the county to 19, 14 of whom have previously been provided with accommodation by the council.
The council expects to increase the roles it funds within the substance misuse service, Turning Point. The funding will allow the service to deliver more intensive support to rough sleepers and provide the support needed to tackle challenges relating to drug and alcohol issues.
Help our volunteers help our homeless
Residents who want to help this winter should contact Herefordshire Voluntary Organisations Support Services (HVOSS). Residents can also donate to food banks, including the Living Room, Salvation Army, Vennture and any other group that provides all-year-round support to homeless people and rough sleepers.
Chris Franks, who leads the team at Turning Point, says:
“We're excited to work in partnership with Herefordshire Council and the rough sleeping team to offer treatment and support. Our outreach service aims to provide access to anyone sleeping rough, or at risk of rough sleeping, across the county. With an outreach recovery vehicle (Lance), we can offer direct support to the people who need it. Our trained recovery navigators also empower rough sleepers to engage with housing services.”
Councillor Angela Tyler, cabinet member for housing, regulatory services and community, says:
“It is excellent news for Herefordshire Council’s rough sleeping outreach team and the strategic housing and housing solution teams who applied to the DLUHC. Securing three years of funding strengthens the existing teams who can now put measures in place to continue their work for the foreseeable future. The council has worked closely with all partners involved with Project Brave taking a high number of rough sleepers off our streets and turning their lives around because of this initiative. Families are facing worrying times with the cost of living crisis that is putting pressure on household incomes. Therefore, it is really important that we protect our existing vulnerable cohorts as well as protect those who may potentially become homeless and/or rough sleepers over the winter months.”