Bridge, which is one of the approved referral agencies, said there have also been problems with how referrals are made. The council initially told the agency it would be possible to complete the necessary information online – but this never happened.
Homeless people cannot just turn up at the Northampton Nightshelter; they must first be referred by one of several approved agencies. When these organisations come across somebody sleeping rough who wants to access the shelter they must send over the referral form to the council who will then decide if the person is allowed in.
To the east of Northampton in the small town of Rushden, the Sanctuary night shelter has a more open approach.
The only people turned away are those with convictions for arson or sex offences, and people with no recourse to public funds. The Sanctuary doesn’t require homeless people to have established a local connection to the area.
Sanctuary manager, Maria Borg, says: “We don’t require much information from people and we give everybody two weeks in the shelter before we expect them to start engaging with support services.”
The King’s Arms project in nearby Bedford is also more flexible about who is allowed in.
It’s a direct access shelter meaning that people can just walk in off the street and it’s usually 95% full compared to 60% in the Northampton shelter.
“Other places manage it, so why can’t they?” Stan Robertson, who provides breakfasts to rough sleepers in Northampton, says. “There’s not enough support here, especially for women.”