Local authorities across the West Midlands are committed to ensuring no one need sleep rough this winter. Working together with partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors in the West Midlands Homelessness Taskforce, councils are committed to keeping the most vulnerable people safe during the winter months.
This winter, each council will use their own plans and expertise to help rough sleepers. Specifically, rough sleeper outreach teams in Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton will work to rapidly respond to locate people known to be sleeping rough and support them to access a place of safety.
Importantly, the aspiration is that everyone who is sleeping rough in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area will be able to access severe weather provision. This includes people whose needs are complex, pet owners, couples, those who have no recourse to public funds, people who may have previously been banned from support services and those with no local connection.
People in the West Midlands will be able to alert local authorities to rough sleepers in their area by contacting StreetLink who will connect them to local support services.
In addition, a co-ordinated regional response will be working to ensure individuals are matched to the appropriate services and support to move them away from sleeping on the streets for good.
Work has already begun to match the first people with homes for the regional Housing First pilot, which has secured £9.6M from Government and is being led by Birmingham City Council. This is a project to support entrenched rough sleepers with the most complex needs to access accommodation alongside intensive support to enable them to recover from issues such as mental ill health or substance abuse and to sustain their tenancies.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “As winter draws in, it is vital we make the right preparations to help rough sleepers get the support they need.
“Local authorities in the West Midlands have come together with charities and businesses to agree this Winter Plan for Rough Sleepers, with its commitments to severe weather provision, Housing First, Change into Action and other support.
“There are many dedicated people who work incredibly hard for local authorities and charities throughout the year to help vulnerable people. Over the next few months we will all need to work even harder to support them.”
Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is so important that we work together across the city and region to address homelessness and rough sleeping. Nobody should have to sleep rough and it is even more important we support them as the temperature drops. Our cold weather provision is now in place and will remain so until the weather improves; we have rest rooms in our hostels, hot meal provision and, importantly, a chance to engage with people using these services.
“There are a great many hard-working people from charities and public organisations who will be out and about helping people this winter, as they do throughout the year.
“We still have a challenge ahead of us to achieve our vision of eradicating homelessness in Birmingham, including the number of people rough sleeping, and our focus is very much on intervention and trying to stop rough sleeping and homelessness from occurring in the first place.
“While it is vital that we provide temporary shelter for rough sleepers, we need to have permanent, affordable housing with properly funded health and recovery-based services. A really good example of this is the regional Housing First programme; Birmingham City Council and local registered housing provider Bournville Village Trust let the first tenancies in the region as part of this programme so these are individuals successfully housed who would otherwise have been sleeping on the streets.”
Councillor Gaye Partridge, cabinet member for housing at Dudley Council, said: “No one should have to sleep rough and this is something we take very seriously in Dudley. We believe there is no reason for anyone to spend a night on the streets at any time but as we approach the winter, it focuses our minds on the issue.
“Our officers respond to reports immediately to engage with people and provide details of accommodation immediately available to them.”
“We are pleased to work closely with partner agencies and neighbouring authorities and would encourage people to report anyone they believe to be sleeping rough in our borough to Streetlink or Dudley Council Plus on 0300 555 2345 so we can provide help and support.”
Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for housing, said: “Homelessness, and in particular rough sleeping has a terrible impact on people’s lives. In Sandwell we remain very committed to making sure that wherever possible people are supported to come off the streets.
“During the cold snap earlier this year we helped more than 40 people into safe secure accommodation protecting them from the harsh elements of the freezing cold. We will be adopting exactly the same approach this winter in full support of the Winter Plan.”
Councillor Tony Dicicco, Solihull Council’s cabinet member for environment and housing, said: “No-one should have to sleep rough at any time but when the cold weather sets in, it is of particular concern to us in Solihull.
“We have in place outreach support to help anyone found sleeping rough and we would also encourage everyone to use the Streetlink app to highlight any cases of rough sleeping which the public may be aware of.
“Those rough sleepers who do not wish to receive help at a particular time will be monitored on a regular basis, provided with support whilst on the streets and reminded of what is available should they change their minds.
“Anyone who is concerned about a person sleeping rough should call Solihull Community Housing on 0121 717 1515 (available 24 hours a day) or make a report through the Streetlink app / website.
“Over the Winter period enhanced support is available through our severe weather emergency provision and this will ensure that emergency accommodation is made available to anyone sleeping rough in the Solihull Borough.”
Councillor Adrian Andrew, portfolio holder for strategic housing at Walsall Council, said: “Homelessness is a complex and important issue, and this winter we are stepping up our efforts. That’s why I’m pleased that we have agreed a joint Winter Plan for Rough Sleepers with other councils, working with Andy Street, the Mayor.
“In Walsall we have already piloted Housing First and helped 29 rough sleepers since November 2017, and it’s good to see it being rolled out across the whole of the West Midlands. We will be running our Winter Night Shelter with the Black Country YMCA, faith groups and volunteers, and a Homeless Day Service at the Glebe Centre to address health and social care needs.”
Councillor Peter Bilson, City of Wolverhampton Council deputy leader and cabinet member for city assets and housing, said: "We continue to actively work with our partner agencies to try and find a solution for rough sleepers in Wolverhampton and throughout the winter months we particularly refocus our efforts.
"Our outreach team is constantly out spotting rough sleepers and the police regularly inform us of any rough sleepers they come across, with all offered solutions to their current issues, through short-term crisis accommodation and more long-term support.
"Prevention is also key and it is important we stop someone from becoming homeless in the first place by working closely with our partner agencies such as P3, Housing Outreach teams, money advice colleagues, Wolverhampton Homes and Wolverhampton BID in order to find solutions for people threatened with homelessness, and to ensure support is available for those who are unable to maintain their tenancy for whatever reason.
"People can also help rough sleepers by donating money at one of the many Alternative Giving Campaign collection points around the city."