Tackling Homelessness, an update from Alison Butler

Bensham Manor Ward Councillor Alison Butler, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services, has written about three initiatives supported by the Council.

Capital Letters – improving temporary accommodation

It is clear that the housing crisis cannot be tackled in isolation by London boroughs, particularly when it comes to temporary accommodation.  London boroughs need to work together, rather than against each other when sourcing accommodation. In the spirit of this, Croydon’s Labour council has joined a London-wide initiative set up to strike better deals when finding temporary accommodation for homeless families.

The scheme, called Capital Letters, means participating councils will join forces to procure temporary accommodation instead of getting their own deals. Joining the Capital Letters scheme means the council will be able to negotiate longer temporary accommodation contracts and reduce the need for more expensive nightly-let emergency housing. As well as pooling their resources when discussing terms with landlords and letting agents, the councils involved in Capital Letters will have access to a £38 million Government grant to help fund more temporary accommodation.

The standard practice nationwide is for councils to negotiate their own terms with landlords of emergency and temporary accommodation, meaning that landlords can charge different councils different rates. The types of properties available include those let direct by landlords or those negotiated through managing agents, and Croydon will join the scheme when it starts in April 2019.

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol

As a Labour council we have a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) which sets out how both we and our partners will respond to people in Croydon without shelter during periods of severe weather.

The national expectation is that cold weather SWEP will be implemented when the temperature is forecast to fall to zero degrees centigrade or lower for three days or more.  However, in London working with other London boroughs and the Mayor of London, Croydon will trigger SWEP on the first night of freezing temperatures. The aim of SWEP is to prevent loss of life and to reduce rough sleeping during extreme weather to as near zero as possible.  Our Croydon Reach outreach service seeks to engage all rough sleepers and refer them to shelter once SWEP is activated.

SWEP arrangements operate outside our usual eligibility and entitlement frameworks and includes rough sleepers with no recourse to public funds, no local connection and those usually excluded from accommodation.  SWEP accommodation is provided from a number of sources: Croydon Churches Floating Shelter, vacancies within commissioned supported accommodation projects and emergency accommodation.

Local SWEP provision is supplemented by GLA funded hubs, both No Second Night Out hubs which are available to new rough sleepers all year round and SWEP overflow hubs, opened up when the temperature is forecast to be below zero anywhere within London on that day.

If you have concerns about an individual, please call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or use their website https://www.streetlink.org.uk/.. If the person is in health crisis please call 999

Severe weather provision at Crystal Palace Football Ground

Thanks to the great work of our Gateway Team we have entered into an agreement with Crystal Palace FC to use a lounge at Selhurst Park as a temporary overnight shelter for up 10 rough sleepers whenever night time temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing.  Under the deal, those identified as rough sleeping are referred by outreach staff to the lounge, where they are welcomed with a camp bed for the night, a hot evening meal, breakfast and washing facilities. Having visited, the space is brilliant and the food fantastic.  Volunteers from both the club and foundation were on hand and they were really lovely people. Out Gateway staff and Staff from ThamesReach (our outreach service) made up the team

The space is converted back for normal club use each morning, and work continues with those using the service to prevent them from returning to the streets.  This emergency shelter is in addition to rough sleeper referrals who go to the Croydon

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