Stevenage council leader Sharon Taylor: ‘We are working to eradicate rough sleeping’

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor discusses the council's strategy for tackling the hom

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor discusses the council's strategy for tackling the homelessness crisis. Picture: Stevenage Borough Council - Credit: Archant

Homelessness in 2020 is an issue I hoped our council would not still be facing at the start of a new decade. Unfortunately, we have a growing housing crisis nationally which means so many people and families are struggling to obtain and sustain accommodation.

Since the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and the Rough Sleeper Initiative 2018, Stevenage Borough Council has seen an increase in demand on our homeless services.

Our new strategy and approach to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping across the borough is already in action. As a co-operative council working with partners and users of the service, the following priorities were identified in our five year strategy: prevention and relief of homelessness, provision of temporary accommodation, housing development and support for homeless households.

Our vision for Stevenage is to continue to work co-operatively to prevent and reduce homelessness and end the need for anyone to sleep rough in Stevenage. The main aims will be to increase our temporary accommodation portfolio to include our own local authority hostel, focus on building more affordable housing to assist residents to obtain their own home and allow the council to work with partners to provide effective support services for all.

We will also be exploring the 'Housing First' programme adopted in Finland to determine how we can support rough sleepers back into their own homes.

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Our housing options and supply team work hard to prevent homelessness and, in our monitoring figures for 2017/18, 231 homelessness cases were prevented.

In the following year (2018/2019), this had risen to 399 cases. Despite this hard work, last year in 2019 15 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in Stevenage.

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This figure has been verified by Homeless Link, the charity that submits local authority rough sleeper findings to central government.

Further work is needed to achieve our aim of eradicating rough sleeping. One effective approach is our work on Operation Urban which is a collaborative piece of work between Hertfordshire Constabulary and our outreach team to engage with rough sleepers.

Any resident seeking housing advice can contact our housing options and supply team on 01438 242242 who will work to identify what options are available to assist residents facing accommodation challenges.

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