Four homeless people in the Mansfield district have been successfully moved out of temporary emergency accommodation.
They have now moved into rented housing and employment as part of a pioneering council scheme to find a permanent solution to rough sleeping.
In the initial national response to the Covid-19 crisis to help stem the spread of the virus, councils were asked by the government to offer accommodation for rough sleepers so they could protect themselves and maintain effective social distancing.
It also allowed them to continue to access the support they need during the pandemic as many have underlying health conditions which make them particularly vulnerable to the illness.
Since mid-March, the Mansfield partnership has assisted 27 rough sleepers to engage with help and a local support network while accessing suitable accommodation.
Among that 27 have been four EU citizens who have been helped to find employment and are now in private rented accommodation.
They had been homeless and sleeping rough because they had no jobs and not been resident and paying taxes for long enough in the UK to qualify for Universal Credit to help with housing costs, a situation known as having "no recourse to public funds".
During the coronavirus crisis, rough sleepers in the district have been put up in accommodation most suited to their circumstances, including the council’s temporary housing units or empty council properties.
Additional accommodation has been provided by the local YMCA in a government-funded project to secure long term support for rough sleepers and help them move towards living independently.
Alongside the YMCA scheme, the council has been developing its own supported housing pilot project called Mansfield First Steps. It is operated by the council and Action Housing and consists of a co-ordinator with four support workers who will working with our partners including Framework, Change Grow Live (CGL) and the NHS.
Six former rough sleepers, including two couples, who were among the 27 housed temporarily during the crisis, are now ready to move on to the First Steps project, which has five properties allocated to it so far.
All have accepted tenancies on the basis of a commitment to being part of ongoing interventions to address any unemployment, mental health or substance abuse issues to maximise the chance of them successfully transitioning from the streets to independent living.
First Steps mirrors schemes which are growing in popularity across Europe, and is the first of its kind anywhere in Nottinghamshire outside the city. 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 eventually aims to 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. Three will be provided by the council and the rest by housing associations working in partnership with the council.
Cllr Marion Bradshaw, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: "This is a very important scheme and one which the council had been committed to before the coronavirus situation so in many ways, the council was ahead in its thinking.
"It now aligns with government’s 'moving on' guidance to councils nationally to transfer rough sleepers into more permanent solutions to their homelessness rather than allowing them to drift back into living on the streets."
Unfortunately, 11 rough sleepers have returned to the streets since being housed during the crisis. Some made the choice to leave the accommodation provided and, sadly, a small number were evicted from their accommodation as a last resort, due to anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Bradshaw added: "We can't compel people to accept an offer of help and it is difficult for some rough sleepers to adjust to a different kind of life.
"For a small few, it is hard for us to find and sustain accommodation for them if they behave anti-socially and in a way that puts support workers at risk.
"For all these people who return to the street, we have to try to manage their day-to-day welfare as best we can and reassure them, and the wider public, that help is available and continues to be offered on a daily basis.
"We would like to thank TunTum housing for their work with us to help those people with no recourse to public funds, Action Housing who are our housing partner for the First Steps project, Framework and CGL, for their ongoing outreach and engagement with our vulnerable street community, and the YMCA for their ongoing commitment to Mansfield.
"It is the support of all these partners that has made it possible to respond so comprehensively and cohesively to the complexities of rough sleeping and finding a long-term housing solution for those people who find themselves in this position."
The council is continuing to provide food drop-offs for accommodated rough sleepers it knows of and taking food to the properties where they are housed until Friday 19 June.
After this date soup kitchens, including Bee Humble, the Beacon Project, the Bridge Street Methodist Church and Mansfield Soup Kitchen, will start to operate again in the district for the homeless and financially vulnerable.
Regular monitoring of rough sleepers with health or other complex needs will continue, in conjunction with public health providers and partners, and there will be ongoing communication with rough sleepers via Framework Outreach and CGL.
Meanwhile, the council will continue to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to find ways to engage with those who continue to sleep rough and often have the most complex needs.
The council continues to advise people to visit the Mansfield Street Support website (opens in new window) to find out how best to help rough sleepers in a long term and sustainable way, rather than giving them food or cash. It may be more beneficial, for instance, to donate money or non-perishable food to a local 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 Solutions 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 the Street Link website (opens in new window) to ensure they are offered the necessary support.