The Local Government Association, on behalf of Leicester City Council commissioned Neil Morland & Co to carry out a review of direct access and housing models for people experiencing street homelessness who decline to engage with support or take-up offers of accommodation. The project was carried out from December 2018 –March 2019.
A number of days were spent in Leicester, meeting with the local authority, other public authorities and voluntary organisations, plus people experiencing homelessness. This included support providers commissioned by the local authority, others in receipt of grant funding, plus those delivering services resourced entirely by voluntary donations. A literature review also took place, identifying what worked when accommodating the identified cohort.
LCC’s homelessness review 2017 identified a third of rough sleepers were refusing offers of accommodation. This cohort typically had complex needs and had often been stuck on the street for a year and in some cases much more, or had been in and out of services in previous years, including supported accommodation and prison. The vast majority had been in contact with the dedicated outreach team, the No Second Night Out pathway, the Dawn Centre and other initiatives and yet still remained on the street.
It was widely recognised that whilst the council had always been at the forefront in tackling rough sleeping, a number of external and internal factors had arisen in recent years that have caused a spike in numbers. Key factors included, public spending cuts, welfare reforms, the lack of affordable accommodation, decommissioning of council managed temporary accommodation and the reduction of funding generally for support services, all of which had played a significant role in helping people off the streets and into appropriate accommodation.
In the main, stakeholders and partners considered that there were good services in the city and that these services generally meet the needs of most people, including those in multiple need. However, stakeholders considered that there was a specific group of individuals who were vulnerable and entrenched in rough sleeping who would not accept any offer of the current services. Stakeholders further considered that this group, who had been in and out of different services over a number of years, did not wish to be tied into strict policies and regulations that were imposed on them by the current services and that given their vulnerabilities felt exposed to intimidation by others and therefore felt more comfortable and safer on the streets in a group. They had in effect formed a community on the street, accessing various drop in services for food and clothes and spoke to specialist services whilst living on the streets.
However, there were serious concerns that they were being targeted by other rough sleepers who were anti-social, some violent, who would take advantage of the group’s vulnerabilities. For example, using them to beg on their behalf or taking their possessions from them.
Three costed options were provided for LCC to consider:
- Sleeping Pods incorporated in existing provision, such as a night shelter.
- Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) with support.
- A bespoke supported housing project.
Leicester City Council is considering the three options provided and is looking further into the most favoured and suitable option – a bespoke supported housing project. The Lodge project in London is unique in terms of how it accommodates entrenched rough sleepers so, NM&CO have offered to facilitate a visit for the local authority to learn more.
Better partnerships with other relevant services has been recommended. For example, closer working with both commissioned and non-commissioned providers.
Leicester City Council has been advised to look more closely at the services that they currently finance, to ensure funding is used more effectively to reduce and prevent rough sleeping in the future.
Leicester City Council has been encouraged to use the best practice information offered via this project, to attract private landlords, enabling more access to private rented accommodation.
Leicester City Council are considering additional advice provided on how to access the private rented sector through the use of housing of multiple occupation for both traditional build and modular housing, using either its own resources or private investment to procure. This should help mitigate the ‘silt up’ in existing projects.
Key priorities going forward will be to ensure that any option offered, is embedded within the local homelessness strategy. Regular informal and formal consultation with partners and stakeholders will be vital to putting in place the right accommodation model.