Housing alone won't cure homlessness in Northampton says temporary digs provider

The landlords of Oasis House in Northampton say that temporary accommodation offered to homeless people must come with a lasting package of support.
The landlords of Oasis House in Northampton say that temporary accommodation offered to homeless people must come with a lasting package of support.

Housing on its own is not the 'panacea' to solving Northampton's homelessness problem - the town's biggest temporary accommodation provider has stated in a new report.

Midland Heart, which operates 48 halfway house bedsits at Oasis House, says that entrenched rough sleepers and sofa surfers often slip back into homelessness after staying in temporary digs because they stop engaging with support services.

In a report to the borough council's scrutiny panel on tackling homelessness, Midland Heart said that any plans to expand the number of halfway homes available must come with a pledge to support the people in them for longer.

The report says: "Housing First requires the right combination of a permanent, secure home in a positive community setting, coupled with intensive support.

"A failure to get the formula right could result in a ‘drag’ effect on recovery, or in the proliferation of antisocial behaviour in the surrounding neighbourhood."

Housing First is a recognised approach to tackling homelessness that works to get people into accommodation first before supporting them to stay there.

But Midland Heart says that, in its experience, it does not always work.

Midland Heart says that when people receive a stable tenancy, they often stop engaging with services such as those to help them kick alcohol and drugs.

The result sees them either head back to sofa surfing or the streets.

In order for it to work in Northampton, the Midland Heart says there would need to be "reassurances" that support will not be "withdrawn after a fixed timeframe".

The admission, however, comes after Midland Heart decided to evict the Hope Centre from Oasis House in favour of expanding the temporary accommodation available there, although the tenancy was later extended until the Hope Centre could find a new base.

The Hope Centre offers a range of daytime support services for homeless people including a soup kitchen and housing advice.

The report is due to be debated at the borough council's scrutiny panel on homelessness on Monday night.

Midland Heart was asked to submit opinions to the panel on how to reduce the number of people without a permanent place to live in Northampton.

As part of the report, the landlord also suggests the various charities around town should adopt a universal code of conduct for the people they engage with.

"Charitable organisations with high levels of engagement may have different thresholds for acceptable behaviour for service users within their premises," it says.

"Customers will ultimately go to the resource where they feel most comfortable, though this may not be the most effective for their individual needs."