The government has allocated an extra £3.4 million to help rough sleepers off the street in Brighton and Hove – the largest sum awarded to any council outside London.
The latest award comes on top of other government funding worth about £3 million to provide “longer-term sustainable housing” for the homeless.
Ministers pledged to put a roof over the head of Britain’s rough sleepers at the start of the first coronavirus lockdown in the spring.
Brighton and Hove City Council moved hundreds of people into hotels and guest houses initially – and later into university halls of residence.
The number far exceeded the council’s official figure of 88 rough sleepers.
With the return of students to university in September, many of those people have been moved again.
The council said: “We’ve been awarded around £3.4 million to provide immediate short-term accommodation and support this financial year and around £3 million to provide longer-term sustainable housing options for the people accommodated.
“The funding is ring-fenced to support the 369 people we were accommodating at the end of September and anyone subsequently found to be sleeping rough in the city.
“There are also conditions attached to the funding to move on at least 40 per cent of the people accommodated by (Thursday) 31 December.
“This is a huge challenge but we are working very hard to find suitable long-term sustainable housing or, for those without a local connection to the city, support their return to the area where they can be offered accommodation – as long as it’s safe for them to do so.”
The council added: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve provided safe self-contained accommodation for people who were sleeping rough.
“We’ve worked with health and voluntary sector partners to set up a ‘care and protect’ model which, after assessing a person’s medical and support needs, directs the accommodation and support package provided.
“This has allowed us to provide care and separate accommodation for anyone with symptoms of covid-19 while protecting those who are vulnerable to covid-19 by accommodating them elsewhere.
“Everyone who needs it is being provided with food and support.
“We’re currently accommodating around 340 people who would otherwise be sleeping rough in the city and are working on ‘personal housing plans’ to support them all into sustainable long-term housing.
“We’ve successfully moved more than 100 people on from the emergency accommodation since the end of September.
“However, we are seeing more people rough sleeping in the city every week which adds to the pressure of providing accommodation.
“For some people with complex needs it can be difficult to move from the streets and we are aware of around 30 people currently sleeping rough in the city.
“Our partner organisations are continuing work with them to ensure everyone rough sleeping can be supported into safe accommodation.”
Green councillor David Gibson, joint chair of the council’s Housing Committee, said: “This funding is vital to our commitment to avoid anyone needing to return to the streets.
“We’ve been awarded the highest amount of any local authority in the country. That’s down to the hard work our officers and partners put in to the bid itself, as well as the incredible package of support that’s been available for rough sleepers throughout the year.
“The accommodation and support we’ve been able to offer people who were rough sleeping this year has been crucial to keeping them – and the city – safe during the covid-19 pandemic.
“It has given us and our partners a vital opportunity to work closely with people we’ve previously struggled to engage.
“I’d like to thank everyone involved in this response who have worked so hard to get ‘everybody in’.
“The funding is not as much as we need … Our challenge now is to secure enough suitable longer-term housing and support for all the people accommodated within a very short timeframe.
“If we do not sustainably house 40 per cent of the homeless people by (Thursday) 31 December, the government say they will deny us over £1 million of the grant, so it is vital that we strain every sinew to meet this target.
“With the shortage of accommodation in the city and more newly arrived rough sleepers each week, this is possibly the biggest challenge of all.”
Conservative leader Steve Bell said that the money to help rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove was part of an extra £35 million provided to the council since the pandemic began.
Councillor Bell said: “The latest £4.78 million is hugely welcome and will ease financial pressures on the council and ensure it is able to continue providing vital local services this winter.
“Just like we said we would stand behind people whose jobs are at risk – with over £200 billion so far to project jobs, incomes and businesses throughout and beyond this pandemic – this Conservative government is keeping its promise to local authorities and ensuring they have the resources they need to continue supporting people.”
Labour councillor Gill Williams, who speaks for the opposition on housing, said: “It’s testament to the hard work of staff and volunteers across many services that we’ve been able to secure this extra funding.
“There’s still a very difficult challenge ahead but we hope this funding helps … everyone we’ve been supporting this year.”
The council pays the homeless charity St Mungo’s to run an outreach service in Brighton and Hove to help rough sleepers off the streets.
The council added: “If you see anyone you think might be sleeping rough, please let us know by contacting Streetlink.
“St Mungo’s Street Outreach Service can then get in touch with them and help them get the support they need.”
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