Homelessness in Northampton: Why are homeless Eastern Europeans not getting the help they need?

Picture: Alex Sturrock
Picture: Alex Sturrock

There is a particular concern among some local organisations about Eastern European rough sleepers – one of the fastest growing migrant groups in the region.

The council published a multi-agency strategy document on rough sleeping in 2016, which recognised that “almost half” of the town’s rough sleepers were from Eastern Europe. The coroner’s report into Vadims Aleksejevs’s death noted that “at the time of the deceased’s death there were seven tents containing Latvian, Polish and other nationals”.

Yet some Eastern European rough sleepers seem to have little confidence in the system.

“The local connection rule particularly affects people from Eastern Europe,” a homelessness worker told the Bureau. He said they “believe there’s no prospect of ever getting housed so why even bother?”.

Bridge, a local substance misuse agency, agreed that the council’s approach to those without a local connection deters many of them from seeking help.

“They won’t engage with the outreach workers because of the way they are made to feel or because they know there’s no chance they will be helped,” Vince Carroll, service director at Bridge said.

Father Oliver Coss, the rector of All Saints church in the town centre, told the Bureau he has also raised concerns about the lack of provision for rough sleepers who are originally from outside of the country.

“It was quite a short conversation,” he said. “Their response was quite dismissive. It seems like it’s the night shelter or nothing, but what about those who can’t get into the shelter?”

Phil Harris, the head of housing at the council said Eastern European rough sleepers were welcome at the shelter if they can prove they have been living in Northampton for six out of the last 12 months.

The council told the Bureau that “the night shelter has been used by a total of 45 non-UK nationals who, between them, have stayed a total of 979 nights. These include 22 men from Eastern Europe, 9 from Western Europe, 11 men from Africa and 3 from other countries.”

Every non-UK national who is sleeping rough or is at risk of having to sleep rough in Northampton is offered advice on their options, the council says, and, if they want to be reconnected with family support in their country of origin but cannot afford the fare, the council will make the necessary travel arrangements and cover the cost.