Councillor defends ‘effectiveness’ of street outreach team dealing with Northampton rough sleepers

The street outreach team deal with rough sleepers in Northampton
The street outreach team deal with rough sleepers in Northampton

The ‘effectiveness’ of Northampton Borough Council’s outreach team, which deals with rough sleepers, has been defended by the councillor responsible for dealing with homelessness.

Councillor Stephen Hibbert has launched a passionate defence of the outreach team in response to a written question from Labour councillor Cathrine Russell.

Councillor Russell recently chaired a scrutiny panel looking at homelessness in the town, which recommended the council adopt ‘housing first’ in a bid to tackle the problem.

But in a submitted question to Councillor Hibbert on Monday evening (June 3), she asked: “The homeless and rough sleepers are still visibly with us. How are we to judge the effectiveness of the outreach team?”

Responding to her question, Councillor Hibbert wrote: “The street outreach workers play a vital role in engaging with people who are sleeping rough in Northampton or are living in makeshift shelters and tent encampments on the outskirts of the town.

“From my discussions with them and their managers – and the feedback that I receive from homeless people during my fortnightly visits to the Nightshelter – I have been incredibly impressed by the compassion, understanding and skill of the street outreach workers and their patience, motivation and perseverance in providing rough sleepers with the help, support and encouragement to come off the streets and rebuild their lives.”

The street outreach workers will visit all areas of the borough, including woods, parks and cemeteries, where it is known or suspected that someone may be sleeping rough. Twice a week they go out to speak with people who are sleeping rough in Northampton. They will also negotiate with landlords and families and help people access the Nightshelter, housing projects and the private rented sector.

Extra funding from the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative has allowed the service to operate on a six-day basis, as well as helping to grow the team.

Councillor Hibbert adds: “Through daily contact with people who are sleeping rough, the outreach workers are now familiar with and have gained the trust and confidence of people who are sleeping rough.”

He also added that he would now include the numbers of rough sleepers in the town in future reports to full council.