Supporting rough sleepers through COVID-19

Photo of Councillor Marion Bradshaw
Cllr Marion Bradshaw

Mansfield District Council is working hard to secure sustainable long-term accommodation for rough sleepers through its innovative new housing project.

The council has been working with its partners including Framework, Change Grow Live (CGL), YMCA and the NHS to house rough sleepers so they could self-isolate and continue to access the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government issued guidance in March asking councils to get rough sleepers off the streets to ensure these most vulnerable members of the community were protected from the harmful effects of coronavirus.

The council rose to the challenge in very difficult circumstances and offered accommodation to all known rough sleepers within a matter of weeks. A total of 27 rough sleepers accepted the offer and were placed in accommodation most suited to their needs, including in the council’s own temporary accommodation and empty council properties.

The council is working with The Beacon Project and volunteers, including the Mayor Andy Abrahams, and in partnership with supermarkets and the Red Cross, to prepare food parcels and deliver them to housed rough sleepers. This is to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed to protect the street community, council employees and volunteers.

The council’s Housing team is currently working to find more sustainable and secure move-on accommodation for those that have been housed and several individuals have been identified as being suitable for the council’s innovative Housing First project.

The new project, which is growing in popularity across Europe, is the first of its kind anywhere in Nottinghamshire outside the city. It will provide housing and intensive personalised support to those with multiple and complex needs. It aims to provide housing first, as a right, which allows other issues to be addressed - instead of providing housing last or as a reward.

The scheme will provide a total of 30 bed spaces, 20 of which will be in shared houses - each with two or three beds. In addition, there will be ten single properties across the district, two of which will be provided by the council and others by housing associations working in partnership with the council.

Unfortunately, ten rough sleepers have returned to the streets since being housed. Some of them have made the choice not to remain in the accommodation provided and, sadly, the council has had no choice but to evict a small number as a last resort due to antisocial behaviour and behaviour that puts support workers at risk. 

The council will continue to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to find ways to engage with those with the most complex needs.

Cllr Marion Bradshaw, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “Lockdown has proved difficult for many of us – but none more so than for our homeless community, many of whom have very complex needs and underlying health conditions which make them particularly vulnerable to the illness.

“We understand how difficult it is for some rough sleepers to accept offers of help, but we’d like to reassure them and the wider public that help is available and continues to be offered on a daily basis.  

“Although giving food and cash may seem like the most obvious thing to do, it is not the best solution in the long term. If you want to help please visit Mansfield Street Support (opens in new window) to make sure you help in the best possible way – such as donating money or non-perishable food to an existing organisation.” 

Anyone who is at risk of becoming homeless is asked to contact the council on 01623 463463 at the earliest opportunity so the Housing team can work with them to prevent them being on the streets.

If you see anyone sleeping rough in the district, contact Framework’s Street Outreach 24-hour hotline on 0800 066 5356 or via Street Link (opens in new window) to ensure they are offered the necessary support.

Published: May 15th 2020