Action plan on homelessness.

A new action plan to reduce the number of  homeless people in Bath and North East Somerset is to be decided on by the council’s cabinet next week.

The council’s five-year Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Strategy, produced after a review of homelessness across the district, lays out how it will work together with its partners to prevent people becoming homeless and to find new solutions where homelessness cannot be avoided.

The strategy includes a detailed action plan to lower the number of people sleeping rough and will be considered by the council’s cabinet on 16 January.

Key actions in the plan include working in partnership with a range of organisations to improve accommodation options for vulnerable women who sleep rough, working with private landlords on affordable options, identifying new funding sources to help rough sleepers and providing more affordable housing.

A report before cabinet alongside the strategy shows that the current approach to homelessness in Bath and North East Somerset has already resulted in the need to use temporary accommodation being dramatically lower compared to national and local levels.

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Councillor Tim Ball, cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, said: “Homelessness is experienced in different ways. Whilst single people rough sleeping is often most visible to the public, homelessness can affect any type of household and can be much less obvious. Our new strategy reflects this and sets out to address all causes.

“I’m pleased that our approach in Bath and North East Somerset has meant that the need for people to use temporary accommodation is much lower than in neighbouring local authorities and we will continue to focus on driving this down, but we recognise that more needs to be done to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness. We have some very good partnership working arrangements with a range of excellent organisations and intend to build on this.

“I hope that we can agree to take this strategy forward so that people in our community who are most in need can be supported into safe, long-term accommodation and out of poverty and hardship.”

The strategy is based on four key themes:

  • Preventing homelessness
  • Supporting vulnerable households
  • Reducing rough sleeping
  • Increasing accommodation options

The latest statutory count carried out in November 2018 revealed there were 20 rough sleepers in B&NES. The result of a more recent count is due to be published at the end of February and we are confident that there has been a reduction in the number of people sleeping rough in Bath & North East Somerset. Currently there are 30 homeless households in temporary accommodation across the district.

The new strategy aims to reduce these numbers by:

  • Increasing access to the private rented sector accommodation
  • Improving the Temporary Accommodation offer and reducing the duration of all stays, particularly in B&Bs
  • Improving the likelihood of successful tenancies
  • Improving accommodation options for vulnerable women who sleep rough or are at risk of sleeping rough.
  • Improving the understanding of the pathway into and through homelessness services
  • Identifying new funding sources to ensure new rough sleeper provision continues
  • Improving the use of supported housing
  • Agreeing a partnership approach to working with rough sleepers unable to access public funds
  • Investigating the extent and nature of homelessness, poverty and the impact of Continuous Cruising requirements on local ‘liveaboard’ communities.
  • Continuing to develop affordable housing that meets the needs of homeless people
  • Working with service users and providers to identify creative prevention approaches to reduce repeat homelessness rates
  • Improving the focus and impact of services
  • Addressing the increase in mental health and substance misuse needs amongst homeless people

Delivery of actions under the strategy depends on continued allocation of funding from central Government. In 2019/20, Bath & North East Somerset Council was allocated £360,160 and covers outreach provision, including mental health specialist support, a winter shelter, a rough sleeping prevention service working at the Emergency Department of the RUH, a rapid assessment service and multi-agency support at the winter shelter. The funding level for services in 2020/21 is due to be confirmed this month.

To read the strategy and supporting documents follow this link https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=5556

Bath & North East Somerset’s Housing Options team offer confidential advice for people at risk of becoming homeless at the council’s One Stop Shops in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton. For more information visit: https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/housing/find-home/housing-advice