Agenda item

Homelessness and Rough Sleeping

Objective :

·         What is the approach in Cheltenham for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping including how we work with partners?

·         What is the current level of homelessness in Cheltenham?

·         What support is being provided, how are you performing and how is success being measured?


Martin Stacy (Housing Strategy and Partnerships Manager)

Nigel Potter, (Housing Strategy & Enabling Officer),

Paul Tuckey, (Housing Options Manager, Cheltenham Borough Homes

Councillor Victoria Atherstone, (Cabinet Member for Housing)



Martin Stacy (MS) thanked the committee for the opportunity to speak, and began by saying that everything his team does has its roots in the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy.  This was reviewed last year, with homelessness and rough sleeping highlighted as two separate priorities, rather than a single priority as was previously the case.  This was because although there is an overlap, both require a distinct focus.  Rough sleeping has its own set of challenges, and a different range of commissioned services is required to get people off the street, to engage with support services, and ultimately to live independently.  Both priorities are complex areas requiring a range of solutions and approaches and a significant amount of collaborative work across partnerships – the briefing paper gives assurance of that.


He went on to say that all priorities in the Housing Strategy – including increased provision of affordable housing, making the best use of existing stock, and creating cohesive and sustainable communities – support the efforts to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping, and although Members are only focussing on those two priorities here, it is worth noting the wider housing strategy.  It is accompanied by an action plan, setting out key indicators across the priority areas, which will be updated each year and reported to Cabinet as an opportunity to reflect on the key achievements of the previous 12 months.


Paul Tuckey (PT) also welcomed the opportunity to share what is happening in housing options which covers homelessness and preventative techniques, taking both a proactive and reactive approach when people are threatened with homelessness.  He highlighted the following aspects of his team’s work:

-       the journey which began five years ago when the Homelessness Reduction Act widened the service within homelessness, enabling a more preventative approach.  Since then, 6-7 colleagues have joined the team, various initiatives have been undertaken, including early intervention for rough sleepers and additional assistance to prevent people from being evicted from their homes;

-       they also manage the Homeseeker Plus Housing Register for people seeking social housing, to help them get the most suitable accommodation;

-       the report covers the last two years, but emerging issues this year are the rise in the number of homeless applications and rough sleepers due to loss of private rented accommodation; more people needing additional support for mental health and addiction issues; pressures on other services, such as rising numbers of people no longer able to stay in mental health accommodation, prison releases and the rise in people with refugee status following the closure of hotels.


Member questions

A Member was aware of the number of complex issues causing the increase in homelessness, many of which aren’t the responsibility of CBC.  He understood that people were falling through the gaps with adult social care, and wondered how CBC is working with Gloucestershire County Council to prevent further homelessness on account of this. 


PT said from an operational point of view, a lot of work with statutory and non-statutory agencies was being undertaken, and a duty to refer system was in place, whereby statutory agencies are required to refer people to the council prior to them becoming homeless.  His team is doing what it can at the earliest stage to fill the gaps, but other agencies are under pressure with resources.  Working groups across the county, housing teams, mental health services, social care and other bodies are all working together on this.


MS added that CBC has a number of partnerships across the county.  GCC recognises that solutions are multi-faceted, and has a new multi-disciplinary team focussing on mental health and adult social care – the most difficult areas to reach group.  Work is also ongoing in hubs and Housing First - small steps but heading in the right direction in an extremely challenging area with limited resources.


In response to a further Member question, PT said the Homes for Ukraine scheme is still open for people already on the scheme and staying with host families, but not for new families.  CBC and CBH have purchased 21 properties under the Local Authority Housing Fund Scheme, which can be let to people in the most precarious situations.  The Homes for Ukraine fund is administered by the county council to help people with incentives, helping hosts to continue to provide accommodation,  helping with private rented accommodation, enhanced payments and additional assistance if needed. 


Regarding other refugees, recent hotel closures and the increase in the number of people receiving positive decisions on their asylum claims has led to more people seeking assistance.  The council is doing what it can and exploring all options to provide accommodation and prevent people from becoming homeless.


In response to a Member question about winter weather plans, PT confirmed that a severe weather protocol is in place from 01 November to the end of March, ensuring that suitable, local accommodation is available to assist people.  The council works with a number of local support providers, and last week facilitated a benefit housing event hosted by the YMCA, to engage with people from different communities and faith groups who may be able to help with accommodation or time.


He ended by saying that the council has a successful housing-led programme in conjunction with CBH, which tries to ensure people with complex mental health and addiction needs get the wraparound support they need, to try and ensure any tenancy is long term and sustainable, and prevent them from getting caught up in a cycle of losing the tenancy and being back on the streets. 


The Leader added that she attended a meeting of leaders from around the county last week, with all areas facing rising homelessness as a result of the speed-up of visa approvals.  It was a call to arms from all county districts to identify any spare capacity of land, buildings, or land for modular builds, to help the situation.


The Cabinet Member for Housing gave heartfelt thanks to colleagues at CBC and CBH, saying the increase in homelessness in the last 12 months is a huge problem, and is giving rise to serious worries about how local councils will manage.  Cheltenham is coping at present, but is already exploring options going forward.  The Faith in Housing event was a call-out to the Cheltenham community, including anyone with a second home which they might make available for desperate people.  She said there are many reasons why someone might lose their home, and the local housing allowance is £200 short of rental of the most basic accommodation in Cheltenham.  She was able to confirm that an outbound communications channel is being set up across Cheltenham for all types of community and faith groups, to provide more access to more people about what is needed and how people can support it and get more information.


The Chair asked for information about this to be shared with Members, and thanked officers for all they were doing.






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