Truce called as groups admit in-fighting had damaged efforts to help rough sleepers in Northampton

Father Oliver Coss, from All Saints Church, Northampton
Father Oliver Coss, from All Saints Church, Northampton

After months of in-fighting and conflict, the organisations dealing with homelessness in Northampton have finally called a truce admitting the arguments were stopping them from helping rough sleepers.

Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Hope Centre and Churches Together called in another charity and the Government to resolve their disputes which they admit had "hampered their ability to help homeless people living on the streets of the town".

Robin Burgess, chief executive of Northampton Hope Centre, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a recent visit

Robin Burgess, chief executive of Northampton Hope Centre, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a recent visit

They have now come up with a new approach which includes a new strategy, using Government funding better and setting up a forum.

In a joint statement, they admit mistakes were made in the past.

"As many will be aware, there have been tensions and disputes in recent years between Northampton Borough Council (NBC) and the voluntary and community sector in the town relating to how we address the challenges of rough sleeping and associated issues," the statement said.

"These conflicts have been the cause of regret for many of those involved. Collaborative approaches are vital when it comes to helping people affected by homelessness. We acknowledge that the disputes have damaged the effectiveness of all of our efforts to help rough sleepers.

"The public nature of conflict has also been painful and difficult for those involved and has, at times, obscured the excellent work that has been on-going," they said.

Meetings were held between the three parties and Homeless Link and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to resolve the conflict.

"We are glad to say that these meetings have been productive. The issues of tension and difficulty have been acknowledged and significant time has been spent listening to the perspective of others.

"We acknowledge that each of the agencies, whether statutory, voluntary or the faith and community groups, are passionate about ending the tragedy of rough sleeping. We each have a role to play and must work together better," the statement said.

The new approach was welcomed by Councillor Stephen Hibbert, who said there was a "huge amount of good work going on in Northampton".

Robin Burgess, Chief Executive of Northampton Hope Centre, added: “We are confident that if the commitments are borne out in actions, there is real hope for a future where the role of the voluntary sector is properly acknowledged."

And Father Oliver Coss, Co-Moderator of Churches Together in Northampton, said: “Starting with a recognition that our disagreements and fractured relationships were making it harder to address the hardships and tragedies that afflict those sleeping on the streets of our town, it was right that we came together with outside help. This has enabled us to reflect properly on the past, and to imagine a future where good partnership, pro-active support, and long-term investment in people might finally turn the rising tide.

"Together we have worked hard to forge the beginnings of a blueprint for what comes next. I look forward to working with Northampton’s churches to respond wholeheartedly to the challenge, and to making their contribution to changing lives."