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Bristol calls for more money for homelessness services, as rough sleeping figures revealed

Bristol calls for more money for homelessness services, as rough sleeping figures revealed

Bristol City Council is calling on the Government to invest more in local homelessness services, as it is revealed that the number of people sleeping rough in Bristol has been recorded at 68 during the city’s annual count.

21 February 2022

Since the official count, which took place in November, the amount of people found on the streets has fallen, with 26 people recorded as rough sleeping during our January count - thanks to Bristol’s continued positive action to support people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the council are warning that without significant investment levels of people reporting as homeless and ending up rough sleeping will continue to rise due to the pressure of rising bills and costs, coupled with the lack of affordable move on accommodation.

People with a history of rough sleeping have been given extra support for the next few months with more short-term accommodation and access to COVID-19 vaccinations available.

The Protect and Vaccinate funding is being used to provide accommodation for around 50 people who are currently sleeping rough, offering them wrap around support and access to health services and vaccinations.

Alongside this, the Winter Pressures Grant has helped people, including non-UK nationals, with a place to stay and a plan to help leave the streets, including access to legal advice and help finding employment.

The council remains committed to making sure as many people as possible do not return to – or end up on – the streets, but really needs more long-term financial support.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “While I am pleased to see that our continued efforts to support people who are sleeping rough during the pandemic has reduced the numbers sleeping on the streets, there is still a constant flow of people ending up homeless, with many blockages to getting individuals back off the streets.

“The main reason for this remains the national housing crisis, and the lack of affordable move-on accommodation available for people to progress from the emergency accommodation we provide. We have accelerated our own council house building programme, as well as supporting partners to build more affordable homes, but these will obviously take time to construct, and we need to be able to support people much sooner.

“We know that with food and energy prices rising, coupled with high rents and reduced benefits, even more people will end up needing support in the coming months. There remains a lot of support and services available for people who are rough sleeping, or at risk of homelessness, and I would encourage people to take that first step to reach out and get help.

“Also, until we are able to support asylum seekers and other people with No Recourse to Public Funds we know we will never be able to fully tackle the homelessness crisis. We continue to lobby government to change these rules and to stop allowing people to fall through the social safety net that the rest of us take for granted.”

Securing new move-on accommodation remains a top priority, with the council currently providing new supported move-on accommodation sites across the city.

There are currently more than 1,000 households placed in temporary accommodation in Bristol, a figure that is growing every week, and which is unsustainable in the long term.

Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet member for Housing Delivery and Homes, said: “While the funding we have received to support people this winter is welcome, and we will use it wisely to help as many people as we can, it doesn’t address the need for more affordable social housing and more affordable private rented housing.

“We desperately need to reduce the number of people housed in emergency accommodation, but the short-term nature of the funding means we are not able to offer everyone long-term solutions. Although we hope that we can start people on the journey to turn their lives around.

“We must also remember that homelessness is complex, and not everyone wants the support being offered at the time. We continue to work with people who are rough sleeping, reviewing their options and developing individual plans for leaving the streets.

“I would like to thank all of our officers and sector partners for working so hard, in such difficult circumstances, to get so many people in off the streets.”

Preventing homelessness remains our priority. Working with partners, the council offers a range of prevention services including a welfare rights and money advice service and a Youth Homelessness hub (Bristol Youth MAPS) to help young people to stay with their families where possible.

Gareth Mercer, Homeless Prevention and Outreach Service Manager said: “We are pleased that the January 2022 street count figures reflect the great work has been done by St Mungo’s Outreach team and Bristol City Council to reduce the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Bristol over recent months. The commitment to finding and supporting people sleeping on the streets, backed by provision of suitable accommodation for them to move on to, has contributed to this fall - and shows just what can be achieved.

“However, we know that our work is not done and our expert outreach teams will continue to go out night and day to support people experiencing homelessness.

“We are still in the midst of winter and the cold weather makes this time of year particularly dangerous for people to be sleeping rough. We would encourage members of the public to use the Streetlink app or 24/7 referral line on 01202 315962 to alert our team, or to call emergency services if somebody is in urgent need.”

The council has also received money through the Homelessness Prevention Grant, which aims to prevent households who are renting privately and have got into financial difficulties during the pandemic from being evicted. The team will work with tenants and landlords where there are outstanding rent arrears, and help tenants to find new accommodation if necessary.

In addition, a grant to support ex-offenders will help 30 people who have left prison to find private rented accommodation and offer them support while they get back on their feet.

Taking early action can avoid reaching crisis point. There is good advice and guidance available online: CAB, MA. There are also advice and support services available in Bristol: ACFA, ACORN and Relate.

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