Tensions easing between Northampton’s homeless organisations as relationship gets ‘stronger’

Councillor Stephen Hibbert [pictured] joined Phil Harris in giving councillors an update on homelessness in the town
Councillor Stephen Hibbert [pictured] joined Phil Harris in giving councillors an update on homelessness in the town

The relationship between different homelessness and rough sleeping groups in Northampton is ‘stronger than it has been for years’ according to the borough council’s housing chief.

In the last 18 months there has been heavy disagreement on how to tackle the homelessness crisis gripping the town, and the row has been one played out in public meetings, statements and on social media.

But just three months after it was announced that a ‘truce’ had been called, the new collaborative approach is going from strength to strength according to Phil Harris, head of housing and wellbeing at Northampton Borough Council.

In September 2018, the council had effectively criticised a number of voluntary homelessness agencies of ‘spreading misinformation’, and asserting that their actions were actually ‘sustaining’ rough sleeping.

Twelve months on though, Mr Harris was upbeat at the latest cabinet meeting at The Guildhall on Wednesday (September 11).

He said: “Things have moved on quite a bit. There were tensions between groups that dominated the review we were carrying out. But we worked with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and I think we have worked through those differences. The partnerships between the various groups is stronger than it has been for years.”

In June, a joint statement from the council, the Hope Centre and Churches Together admitted that the in-fighting had ‘hampered their ability to help homeless people living on the streets of the town’.

It added: “The issues of tension and difficulty have been acknowledged and significant time has been spent listening to the perspective of others.”

The statement also said there would be a review and update of the Rough Sleeping Strategy, and a new Single Homelessness Forum with an independent chair would be created.

Giving an update on those projects on Wednesday, cabinet member for housing Councillor Stephen Hibbert said: “The single homelessness forum is being developed, and we have already had one meeting on reviewing the rough sleeping strategy. The other people around the town, like The Hope Centre and NAASH [Oasis House] are very engaged in that process.”