In addition to this work, a comprehensive action plan is being formulated which will see more than £1.1 million invested in tackling the issue of rough sleeping in Cornwall.
Cornwall continues to see relatively high numbers of rough sleepers. The latest estimate, submitted to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) earlier this year, of the number of rough sleepers in Cornwall on a typical night in November 2016, was 99 individuals - a significant increase on the 65 reported the previous year.
Joyce Duffin said: "The increase in the number of rough sleepers in Cornwall is following the national trend and, without a plan to help those at risk so they are not forced to sleep rough in the first place, as well as those who are already having to sleep rough, is likely to get worse.
Factors such as the roll out of Universal Credit, housing benefit changes introduced in the Housing & Planning Act stopping Housing Benefit for under 22yr olds, restrictions on housing benefit for under 35s in social housing and the benefit cap, will put even more people at risk.
Partnership working is the key to tackling this national issue which is threatening to blight the lives of the individuals who find themselves on the brink of becoming homeless, as well as those who are vulnerable and already sleeping rough."
Funded by a successful £292,000 bid to the Government's Rough Sleeper Programme, ‘No First Night Out', will be in place from 01 April and will see a new team of experienced outreach, housing options and resettlement officers from Cornwall Housing, Coastline and St Petroc's Society working together to combine knowledge and skills to help those who are facing pressures that could tip them over into rough sleeping. This specialist team will be working with individuals or couples who are at risk of sleeping rough for the first time and those at risk of returning to sleeping rough. The aim is to ensure that people have a safe place to stay while services work with them to resolve the issues that are threatening them with homelessness.
In addition a further £850,000 has been allocated by the Council and Cornwall Housing to produce a long term Cornwall Rough Sleeping Strategy. Cornwall Rough Sleeping Strategy will be delivered in partnership between Cornwall Council, Cornwall Housing Ltd (CHL), Voluntary Sector Providers, Safer Cornwall, the Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT), Devon & Cornwall Police, Public Health (including Mental Health Services) and Inclusion Cornwall.
Joyce explains: "By committing this £850,000 of funding we are sending out a clear signal that the stop/start short term initiatives of the past need to be underpinned with a properly resourced multi agency strategy which will tackle the issue of rough sleeping head on."
The Strategy has three strands: -
• help for those who are in danger of becoming rough sleepers;
• help new rough sleepers quickly so that they do not become used to and resigned to that lifestyle;
• identify and support entrenched rough sleepers to help them off the streets once and for all.
Joyce says: "The Council already commissions a range of services to help rough sleepers and those with complex needs and these are supported further by the excllent work that is undertaken by the voluntary sector.
However, it is clear that as well as helping those at risk of homelessness from ending up on the streets, we need to support a number of entrenched rough sleepers some of whom have complex needs or who are effectively excluding themselves from accessing the help that is out there now because they sometimes display such challenging behaviour. Just moving people on is not the answer and we need to look at different approaches so that we can offer the support that is required."
Research shows that the longer people sleep rough, the more complex their problems become and the harder it is for them to leave the streets.
Joyce explains: "There is a core group of people in Cornwall who have been sleeping rough for over 6 months. Some of them lead very chaotic lives which makes it difficult to help them into accommodation so we propose putting in place a multi-agency team to bolster existing provision - including specific help for those rough sleepers with mental health issues."
Members of the public who have concerns about a rough sleeper in their area should go to the Streetlink website (www.streetlink.org.uk) or phone Streetlink on 0300 500 0914. The rough sleeper will be contacted by the Street Outreach Team within 24 hours and offered advice, assistance and support to find accommodation.
People who wish to donate should give directly to one of the organisations officially helping people, such as St Petroc's. That way you will help the organisations to support individuals to make positive changes.