A new 27-bedroom supported living scheme has been funded by the government to keep rough sleepers off the streets of Northampton from November.
For the past seven months, people who were sleeping rough or staying in the town’s nightshelter have been protected from COVID-19 by being housed, fed and supported in hotels and a hall of residence.
Since March 27, a total of 160 people have spent at least one night in the hotels and hall of residence and, of these, 98 people have been helped to move on into settled housing.
Another 71, people who were at risk of sleeping rough or did not want to move into emergency housing, have also moved into settled housing.
Revd Sue Faulkner, the chair of the single homelessness forum, said: “None of us could have imagined, all those months ago, that we would be providing such a large number of rough sleepers with emergency housing and round-the-clock support, every day, for 249 days.
“At a time when COVID-19 has caused so much misery and hardship to our communities, people who have been sleeping rough or are on the verge of sleeping rough have been offered the housing, support, stability and opportunity they need and deserve in order to rebuild their lives.
“For many of the rough sleepers, this experience has been life changing. At the beginning, our priority was to ensure that everyone was safe and indoors but, very quickly, we realised what a real and last difference we could make to people’s health and life chances. We also realised that we needed to act urgently to ensure that, when the emergency accommodation came to an end, a permanent solution was in place."
At the end of November, the emergency housing will close and everyone who is still living in the hall of residence will be moved into settled housing or transferred to the new Homelessness Assessment and Rapid Rehousing Pathway (HARRP).
Northampton’s HARRP is a 27-bedroom supported living scheme that has been set up with government funding to provide men and women who are sleeping rough, or at risk of sleeping rough, with somewhere safe to stay while they receive the help and support they need to move on quickly into settled housing.
To support the rapid rehousing of rough sleepers, the council has applied for government funding to buy 15 one-bedroom flats and three five-bedroom houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) that will increase the amount of supported housing that is available, as move-on accommodation, for rough sleepers.
To address the needs of rough sleepers who are dependent on drugs or alcohol the Public Health Team has applied for government funding to create a rough sleepers drug and alcohol team that will work with services to improve rough sleepers’ access to recovery.
She added: “I am incredibly proud of the way in which everyone has worked together to keep rough sleepers safe and provide each of them with the right solution.
"I am also thrilled that, within a relatively short space of time, it has been possible to set up the HARRP and apply for government funding to increase the supply of supported housing for rough sleepers and improve rough sleepers’ access to drug and alcohol treatment.
“The Travelodge, the Holiday Inn Express and the University of Northampton have been fantastic and all of their staff and managers deserve our thanks for their warm welcome and their eagerness to help.”
During the past seven months, a large number of the people who have stayed in the hotels and hall of residence – including dozens of rough sleepers who were originally from Eastern Europe and had been sleeping rough in makeshift shelters and encampments on the outskirts of Northampton – have made the most of this opportunity to rebuild their lives, the forum said.
Although some people do remain on the streets, the 'complex' reasons for this 'are being addressed' and attempts continue to be made to encourage them to engage with the services that can help and support them.
Behind the project is Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Hope Centre, NAASH (a single homelessness charity), Keystage Housing (the housing association that operates the HARRP), International Lighthouse (a community interest company which has provided people from Eastern Europe with specialist immigration and welfare benefits advice) and a wide range of local organisations.
Members of the Single Homelessness Forum, including Churches Together in Northampton, have been talking regularly with one another about the action required to ensure that everyone who is homeless is protected from COVID-19 and receives the help they need to stay safe and avoid returning to the street.
In preparation for the colder winter months, suitable COVID-safe premises have now been identified and, between now and April 2021, everyone sleeping rough in Northampton will be offered emergency overnight shelter (9.00pm – 9.00am) when Northampton’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is activated.
Although emergency shelter may be provided for one or two nights if the weather is exceptionally severe, SWEP will normally be activated when the Met Office is forecasting that the temperature will be 0°C or below for three consecutive nights.