A Lord Comes To Bosco House

1c883f33-dd25-43f9-93ef-c98f0a70375dBosco House was buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a real-life Lord paying a visit this month. As part of the Well Sefton scheme, Lord Andrew Mawson called in to spend some time talking to service users to get the low-down on life in Bosco.

The focus of his visit was to find out from those affected how homelessness impacts on individuals and the local community – and the changes that come from being offered somewhere decent to live. Accordingly, he spent time chatting to some of the residents to get their views on life on the street and the importance of supported accommodation in getting your life back on track.

Dave Morton, one of Bosco’s team of volunteers, gave the Lord the guided tour of the house, gardens, and the facilities in the Futures Suite. Dave said: “He was particularly impressed with the music room and the activities that go on here. And, for a Lord, he seemed like a pretty down-to-earth bloke. Nice guy.”

Lord Mawson commented: “We believe in the unique gifts of every individual in the community and this is the secret to our success. It is the people bit that matters and this is what civil servants and politicians often fail to understand. We engage government firmly but positively; focusing on bringing consistency to their multiplicity of approaches and initiatives.”

Well Sefton is one of the initial pilot sites of Well North, a programme to test interventions to improve overall health in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the North of England. Following an initial rapid review, led by Lord Mawson, a number of recommendations were made that emphasised the need for boosting local infrastructure, particularly in the community and voluntary sector.

Bosco House was one of the projects Well Sefton chose for Lord Mawson to visit, so he could see an example of good practice in providing support to the homeless in the borough

“One person without a home is one too many” Says Minister

The minister for local government (whose portfolio covers homelessness) Marcus Jones MP, spoke at the Homeless Link conference ‘Stem the Tide’ on Monday 7th December.

He said: “I am delighted to be able to speak at today’s Homeless Link Conference. One person without a home is one too many, and our efforts over the past five years have helped prevent nearly one million households from becoming homeless.”

The one-day conference looked at interventions to prevent homelessness and explored when charities, housing associations, day centres, councils and advice services can intervene to prevent homelessness.

The minister went on: “We remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society, which is why, over the next four years, we will increase central funding by making £139 million available for innovative programmes to prevent and reduce homelessness.”

“I’m looking forward to hearing the views of everyone who works so tirelessly supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society to find out how we can ensure no one is without a roof over their head.”

Delegates at the conference discussed a broad agenda, including early interventions that target people at risk, crisis interventions that prevent bad situations from getting worse and enable a quicker recovery, and measures that support the process of moving on from homelessness and into independent living.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link said: “The Homelessness sector faces many issues over the coming months. The problems around complex and multiple needs are a particular challenge; as are the challenges providers face in ensuring that people avoid repeat homelessness.

“The opportunity for the minister to hear from those working in the sector on this issue will be welcomed; as will the chance for the minister to contribute to the debate and outline the Government’s position and plans.”

Movie Star Launches Campaign To Feed The Homeless At Xmas

Hollywood superstar, George Clooney, has launched a campaign to feed the homeless at Christmas by donating the first £5. The appeal aims to feed thousands of homeless people in Scotland on Christmas Day and throughout 2016.

The movie star actor, 54, was filmed donating £5 and urged other people to do the same. People can also contribute towards a convoy of vans that are leaving on Boxing Day with food and winter essentials to refugee camps in Calais, the Serbia/Croatia border and Lesbos.

Last year Social Bite, the not-for-profit Scottish sandwich shop chain, received over 36,000 donations, raising more than £180,000. This allowed them to provide free meals for homeless people all-year round in five of their shops.

Social Bite’s co-founder, Josh Littlejohn, said: “We still have unacceptable levels of homelessness and poverty here on our doorstep and we’re grateful for the public’s support in helping us to do our bit, but we can’t forget the horrendous conditions faced by millions of innocent men, women and children feeling conflict.”

Trespass clothing brand have agreed to match each donation.

New guidance on naloxone in homelessness services

Following recent changes in the law around the availability of naloxone, the lifesaving antidote for heroin and other opioid overdoses, Homeless Link has produced new guidance to help integrate this vital intervention into services for the homeless.

The guidance has been produced in response to concerns around rising numbers of heroin-related deaths nationally – up by almost two-thirds in the past two years from 579 in 2012 to 952 last year. According to the Office of National Statistics, in Sefton there were 33 deaths related to drug misuse in 2012-2014.

The guidance is designed to provide the information needed to introduce naloxone into services and aims to promote good practice standards as part of a wider harm reduction approach.

You can help spread the word about the guidance and encourage good practice around naloxone, and help get local authorities and homeless organisations to adopt its use, if they haven’t done already.

Widening of Naloxone availability and good practice around its use will help to save lives. Here are some of the ways you can help spread the word and help get the guidance out:

  • Notify your colleagues by email within your organisation – the simple link to share is homeless.org.uk/naloxone
  • Put the guidance on the agenda at local strategic and practice forums, sharing information with colleagues at partner agencies
  • Add a link to the guidance in your newsletter or on your website
  • Use social media to spread the word, sharing with your networks using Facebook or Twitter. Here is a sample tweet you can use or adapt:

“New guidance on life saving naloxone from @homelesslink – could this work in your service? http://bit.ly/hl-naloxone#naloxone

Homeless Link has also published a framework for managers in accommodation-based homelessness services, to implement good practice around using naloxone as part of a wider harm reduction approach. Go to http://www.homeless.org.uk/our-work/resources/naloxone-in-homelessness-services

Immigration status checks could increase homelessness, say charities

The government has recently announced that it will push ahead with plans to force landlords to check the immigration status of renters, following a Home Office evaluation of a pilot scheme in Birmingham.

The evaluation showed that six of the local charities surveyed said people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while interviews with landlords found the ‘potential’ for discrimination. Seven of the charities reported that people who have the right to rent, but not the right documentation, were struggling to find accommodation.

Responding to the evaluation, national homelessness charity, Crisis, raised grave concerns that the measures could leave people homeless and at risk of discrimination.

Matt Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: Today’s Home Office evaluation contains some alarming findings about the homelessness impact of these plans. Crisis has already raised serious concerns that requiring landlords to check the immigration status of renters could make it even harder for homeless people to find a place to live, and this report shows that our fears are well founded.

“It is deeply troubling that in the pilot area, six of the local charities surveyed said that people they represent had become homeless as a result of the scheme, while seven indicated that people with the right to rent were struggling to find accommodation.

“Homeless people’s documents often get lost or stolen, and in today’s high pressure rental market, landlords will be more likely to rent to someone who can provide the evidence quickly. As well as creating problems for homeless people, this could lead to discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds, as today’s evaluation suggests.

“As members of the advisory panel we will be raising these concerns with the Home Office and strongly urge the government to work with us to make sure nobody is made homeless because of this scheme.”

Superstar Helps Houston Homeless

The superstar singer, Beyonce, is putting her money where her mouth is to help homeless people in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Earlier this year she donated half a million dollars to Chime for Change, a global campaign that was created to help strengthen and unite the voices of young women around the world by inspiring them with “powerful stories” about inspiring women. But back in June, news surfaced that the singer didn’t stop there.

It has been revealed that she stumped up $7 million to build a low-income housing project in her hometown for homeless men, women and children. She was even dubbed a saint by her Pastor, Rev. Rudy Rasmus, for her involvement with the church.

“She’s an incredible human being. Has an incredible heart and has been extremely helpful in our mission and our ministry here,” Rasmus said in a recent interview. “She has a global platform and is doing some amazing work and I’m glad she’s a friend of mine,” he continued.

Alongside the ex-Manchester United players allowing their property to be used by rough sleepers, it’s good to see that the rich and famous can give something back to their communities, especially to help the homeless.

Venus Has Christmas All Wrapped Up!

As the festive season is fast approaching, there are loads of Christmassy things going on at Venus, Our Place, and their project in Halton.

The Venus Children’s Christmas Party is being held on Tuesday the 22nd of December, from 1.30-3.30pm. The party is for families who have received support from Venus in the last year. If you would like to put your family’s name down for the party, then call into Venus or telephone them on 0151 474 4744.

Our Place is holding a Christmas Party for young people planning to leave care and care leavers, on the 18th of December from 4.30pm onwards. If you would like to book onto this party, then please call them on 0151 928 1380 or call into Our Place.

Last year, the Our Place Christmas Fair was a great success and they’re now looking forward to another great time at this year’s, which is on the 17th of December starting at 4.30pm at Our Place. If you’re interested in having a table at the fair, you can find out more about this by calling the Centre. Otherwise, they’re looking forward to seeing you at the fair for Christmassy goodies and bargains galore!

Venus, Our Place and our Halton office will be closed from the 22nd of December. However, they will be open for telephone advice and support on the days that aren’t Bank Holidays over the Christmas period. You can call between 1pm and 4pm, on either 0151 474 4744 or 0151 928 1380, on the following days:

  • Wednesday 23rd December 2015
  • Thursday 24th December 2015
  • Tuesday 29th December 2015
  • Wednesday 30th December 2015
  • Thursday 31st December 2015

All of the Centres will be open again on Monday the 4th of January from 9.00am.

There are lots of other events and activities happening in the run up to Christmas, too. Our Place carol singers will be at Liverpool One on Wednesday the 2nd of December from 6pm, so if you’re shopping and can spare a few pennies they will be singing for their supper and rattling the collection buckets.

There are lots of other activities on offer so if you’re interested in getting involved and feeling festive, you know what to do – drop in or phone for more info!

Clarification On The Latest Spending Review

According to Homeless Link, a number of agencies have contacted them since the Spending Review announcement on the 25th of November, asking for more information on the proposed restriction of social housing rates of Housing Benefit to Local Housing Allowance levels and whether this applies to hostels and supported housing.

There are three key things that have been confirmed by the Government that will help in understanding what is set out in the review:

  1. Although the new rules will apply to affected individuals who sign their tenancy from April 2016 onwards, they will be entitled to full Housing Benefit until April 2018.
  2. Supported housing is covered by the new rules.
  3. The Government is committed to exempting supported housing from the new rules by increasing Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to local authorities.

As Universal Credit is being rolled out, Lord Freud said there should be a “localised” solution to the funding of supported housing, so this announcement needs to be seen in that context. Ministers are still working out the best approach to the funding of rents in supported housing in the context of Housing Benefit being phased-out. This is also tied to the review of the rental costs in supported housing, which has been commissioned by Government and is due to report in 2016.

There are numerous concerns that will follow from this change and Homeless Link will be raising these in discussions with Government. Especially, whether DHP can realistically be seen as a way of exempting supported housing.

There are also wider concerns about the policy, particularly in relation to young people and the wider application of the Shared Accommodation Rate in the social sector, which go beyond the supported housing issue. Homeless Link will also be taking those concerns forward.

Rough Sleepers Driven Away By Bagpipes

Homeless people in Bournemouth are being driven away by the ear-piercing sound of bagpipe music. The city centre travel interchange has adopted the sound as a deterrent to those wishing to sleep there.

More than a dozen homeless men and women used to congregate by the station’s restrooms in the Dorset bus station, according to local newspaper The Daily Echo.

The initiative was introduced after the rough sleepers reportedly intimidated passers-by and hurled drunken abuse at women. Between midnight and 6:30am the shrill sound is played out on repeat over the speakers, and so far it appears to have kept away those looking for a place to sleep.

“It seems to be doing the job,” one unnamed station worker said. “They just cannot stand it, you try getting any sleep with that going on,” he added. However, one local, who asked not to be named, told the paper: “What a daft idea, all that will do is send them elsewhere, these people need practical help.”

The scheme was introduced by Dorset Police and Bournemouth Borough Council, which said it was working hard to address issues of street anti-social behavior. “This has included regular police patrols, proactive input from our rough sleeper team, and we have been trialling the playing of music in the evenings and night time to deter rough sleeping,” a spokesman said.

The Town That Eliminated Homelessness

In 2009, the city of Medicine Hat, in southern Alberta, Canada, pledged to put an end to homelessness. Now city officials say they’ve fulfilled their promise.

The answer seems simple: if you’ve got no place to go, they’ll provide you with housing. Nowadays, under a programme called Housing First, no one in the city spends more than ten days in an emergency shelter or on the streets.

Like most places, housing is tight in Medicine Hat, and frequent flooding in the past few years has added to their problems. But, with money chipped in by the province, the city built many new homes.

“We’re pretty much able to meet that standard today. Even quicker, actually, sometimes,” Mayor Ted Clugston says. He admits that when the project began in 2009, when he was an alderman, he was an active opponent of the plan. “I even said some dumb things like, ‘Why should they have granite countertops when I don’t,'” he says. “However, I’ve come around to realise that this makes financial sense.”

Clugston says that it costs about $20,000 a year to house someone. If they’re on the street, it can cost up to $100,000 a year. “This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people,” he says.

“Housing First turns everything on its head. It used to be, ‘You want a home, get off the drugs or deal with your mental health issues,'” Clugston says. “If you’re addicted to drugs, it’s going to be pretty hard to get off them, if you’re sleeping under a park bench.”

And the strategy seems to have worked. In Medicine Hat, hospital emergency room visits and interactions with police have dropped. But there was one change that initially surprised Clugston — court appearances went up.

“They end up dealing with their past, atoning for their sins,” he says. Mayor Clugston believes that no one on the streets is unreachable.

He says city staff found housing for one man, but he insisted on leaving to sleep under cars. Day after day, they’d search him out and take him back to his new home.

“They did it 75 times, but they had the patience and they didn’t give up on him and, eventually, he ended up staying in the house,” he says. “Ultimately, people do want a roof over their heads.”