Strategy aims to stamp out rough sleeping in Northampton though it claims some see it as a ‘lifestyle’ choice

Northampton Borough Council has launched plans to reduce rough sleeping to zero by 2017. Picture posed.
Northampton Borough Council has launched plans to reduce rough sleeping to zero by 2017. Picture posed.
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A plan to reduce the number of rough sleepers in Northampton to zero within a year will see a new homeless shelter set up in the town centre.

The borough council will announce its new strategy to get people off the streets and into temporary accommodation at the next cabinet meeting on Wednesday, June 8.

The scheme, being called ‘Together we change lives’, will see the authority working closer with charities such as Hope Enterprises and Goodwill Solutions, to reduce the numbers from 25 to just 10 by November this year and then zero by June 2017.

As part of the plan the council intends to convert the former British Rail Sports & Social Club in St Andrew’s Road, off Grafton Street, into a “temporary night shelter” to add to the 48 beds currently available at Oasis House.

A background paper by the council’s head of housing and wellbeing Phil Harris, states: “Together we change lives’ is not just about ending the need for people to sleep rough in Northampton.

“It is also about rebuilding people’s lives: dealing with any addictions, addressing any physical or mental health problems, resolving any outstanding tenancy issues, and helping people access training and employment.”

On March 24, a team of 32 volunteers took part in Northampton’s rough sleepers count, covering “all of the wards in the borough between Midnight and 3am.”

A total of 21 people were found rough sleeping, though it was considered “too unsafe” for the volunteers to enter the derelict St Edmund’s Hospital site. Eyewitness reports suggest that people have been sleeping in the eyesore site for a number of years.

Of the 21 people, 19 were men and two were women.

The strategy will see the council and partner organisations review how blankets are handed out to homeless people, stating the current strategy could be encouraging people to sleep outside rather than in temporary shelters.

It also says it will work to ensure people leaving hospital and prison do so “in a planned way”.

However the papers suggest the council will have to target a core of people who, it says, choose to sleep rough.

Mr Harris’s report states; “Although sleeping rough is very dangerous and seriously detrimental to people’s physical and mental health, Northampton now has an established community of people who are choosing to sleep rough, as a lifestyle, and are resolutely refusing to leave the streets.

“A significant proportion of these people are unemployed European migrants who are failing to exercise their treaty rights.”

Cabinet members will vote on whether to adopt the strategy at the Guildhall on Wednesday, June 8, at 6pm.