A Digital Food Bank

A food bank charity has started using digital lockers to provide support to homeless people.

Food parcels are left in lockers in St Leonards, East Sussex, which clients can access using a code, reports the BBC news. The charity ‘Surviving the Streets’, based in Hastings, hopes it will overcome the stigma some feel towards visiting a food bank.

The charity’s co-founder, Pete Robinson, said: “You turn up when you like, you just come and collect a lovely parcel.” Pete started the charity with his brother James, who also sees the lockers as a solution to the restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

Pete added: “We have a lot of volunteers, then the pandemic kicks in and everyone’s got to self-isolate. We had to get a solution because there were so many people that needed support, so it was a light bulb moment.” As well as food for struggling families, the lockers will be used to distribute help to the homeless.

Daniel Bowen, a volunteer who himself spent seven years living on the streets, said the lockers could be a lifeline. “Say if you get kicked out two, three o’clock in the morning, suddenly become homeless, you’ve got nothing. Come to one of these things, you’ve got 24-hour access for everything, sleeping bags, tents, hot food, clothing”.

Surviving the Streets would like to see the idea rolled out across the country, especially in locations such as railway stations and blocks of flats.

‘Cowardly’ Attack On Rough Sleeper In Liverpool

Homeless people in Liverpool have reminded the city “we’re human too” after a rough sleeper was brutally kicked in the face.

The violent attack took place outside the Tesco on Dale Street, in Liverpool city centre on Wednesday evening, reports the Liverpool Echo. Footage of the incident was shared online which showed a group of men gathered around the victim as he slept on the floor. The homeless man is sat on the pavement in a sleeping bag, outside a Tesco store on Dale Street.

The yob responsible is talking to the man as he sits defenceless with his arms tucked inside the sleeping bag, at one point gesticulating angrily in his face. The lout momentarily looks away and then turns back and delivers a vicious kick straight to the face of the homeless man. The gang-of-three then cycle away. After the footage was shared widely online, thousands of ECHO readers commented their disgust and anger over the attack. Merseyside Police also condemned the behaviour and issued a statement about the man’s condition.

But now a fellow rough sleeper has also weighed in on the incident, saying he wasn’t surprised and they are often treated as “less than human”. The man, known as Mark, told the Echo: “I heard about it today and to be honest, I’m not surprised. We are often treated as less than human because of our circumstances but people need to remember, we’re human too.”

Mark said that 99% of the people in Liverpool are good but some can’t even show the homeless people here “basic decency”. He added: “I have been homeless in a few cities and Liverpool is by far, the most welcoming, warmest and kindhearted city I have ever experienced, but there are always a few who ruin it for the others. I can sit here all day and I don’t think ill of anyone, the people who pass me have their own struggles too. I treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, that’s all we ask for in return.”

On Thursday, Merseyside Police tweeted: “The victim has been located safe and well, but enquiries remain ongoing to identify the people who are present in the video.” Commenting about the incident on Facebook, Sarah Campbell said: “Disgusting. The people I’ve met outside there have always been so nice and polite and not looking for trouble. They are human beings who deserve better. Hope this sorry excuse for a human gets caught.”

Sue Pilkington also said: “Just no need. Things could change in a heartbeat and he could be in that unfortunate situation. You should always be nice to people. It costs nothing and can mean a lot.” Dawn Louise added: “I saw this earlier and I nearly vomited, made me so upset. I am absolutely disgusted. I hope the nasty piece of work gets identified. This is no way to behave. The poor man had his hands in his blanket so couldn’t even cover is face. Cowards. Sickened.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Extra Help For Rough Sleepers With Drug And Alcohol Issues

Rough sleepers across England will receive extra support to help them recover from drug and alcohol problems, the Government has announced.

Rough sleepers across England will receive extra support to help them recover from drug and alcohol use, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Kelly Tolhurst MP announced today (14 December 2020). Forty-three areas across England will receive support from a £23 million government fund designed for those with drug and alcohol support needs to get the help they need to rebuild their lives. The programme will be boosted by a further £52 million in 2021 to 2022.

Rough sleepers who are being provided with emergency accommodation during the pandemic as part of the government’s ‘Everyone In’ programme, and people who are currently rough sleeping, will be eligible for support. In partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, and managed by Public Health England, the funding will enable them to access drug and alcohol treatment, including detox and rehabilitation services. This will be alongside wraparound support, such as access to mental health and substance dependence workers and peer mentors, who are key to working with vulnerable people in treatment services.

The minister has also confirmed an initial £10 million funding for 19 areas, plus the Greater London Authority, under the government’s £15 million ‘Protect Programme’. This is to provide accommodation for rough sleepers during the pandemic in areas that required extra support during the restrictions and throughout winter. Taken together, government spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year is over £700 million, with the ‘Everyone In’ campaign helping to protect thousands of lives during the pandemic by housing rough sleepers in safe accommodation.

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Kelly Tolhurst said: “We know that one of the main issues facing those sleeping rough, or at risk of homelessness, is misuse of drugs or alcohol and what a crippling effect these substances have on people’s lives. While our ‘Everyone In’ campaign has helped to protect thousands of lives, we still need to work hard to break the cycle of rough sleeping for good. This funding will provide thousands of vulnerable people with the support they need to get on the road to recovery to rebuild their lives away from the streets for good.”

Steve Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s said: “Our own Knocked Back research published earlier this year shows how it has become increasingly difficult for people sleeping rough to access the substance misuse services they need. We also found that drug overdoses were one of the main causes of death of people who do sleep rough. We are pleased that the government is targeting funding to tackle this urgent issue alongside other efforts to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets.”

He added: “This year we have seen what is possible when a coordinated multi-agency approach to providing support is taken. And we at St Mungo’s will continue to work with national and local government, and our local partners, to build on these successes and enable as many people as possible to get the help and support they need to recover from homelessness.”

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Councils Refuse To ‘Collaborate’ In Plans To Deport Migrant Rough Sleepers

A growing number of councils, charities and other organisations have pledged to boycott new Home Office rules to criminalise and deport migrant rough sleepers.

The Home Office changed the UK immigration rules on 1 December, although it has not yet published guidance about how to apply them, reports The Guardian. Local authorities, MPs, anti-trafficking organisations and homeless organisations including Crisis and St Mungo’s are warning that the rules, which could withhold leave to remain from migrants found to be rough sleeping or revoke it from those who have it, will punish and criminalise some of the most vulnerable. The majority of the UK’s migrant rough sleepers are in London, with about half of those rough sleeping in the capital thought to be migrants.

The Greater London Authority is refusing to cooperate with the Home Office and has stated: “The GLA and its commissioned services will not collaborate with such draconian measures.” Haringey council has said it will not collaborate with the Home Office on the new policy, and Islington council has said the same, warning that this kind of cooperation with the Home Office will compromise relationships of trust with vulnerable rough sleepers. Southwark council has also voiced concerns.

Public Interest Law Centre is bringing a legal challenge against the rules. It warns that the policy will create a “chilling effect” on migrant rough sleepers’ willingness to approach services for support and so could increase rough sleeping. It says the new rules are so general that migrants who are office workers found sleeping at their desk late at night or travellers sleeping at an airport before catching an early morning flight could find themselves caught up in them. The centre previously brought a successful legal challenge against a government policy to deport EU rough sleepers in December 2017.

The Labour MP Apsana Begum described the policy change as “despicable” and called for it to be scrapped. She said: “It effectively criminalises rough sleepers who were not born in the UK and adds to the draconian rules already facing those who are seeking asylum or permission to remain.” The chief executive of St Mungo’s, Steve Douglas, said: “It is disappointing that this proposed change in approach has not been discussed with the homelessness sector, where there is real concern that it will increase distrust of the Home Office’s intentions and could drive people with a legitimate right to remain away from essential services.”

One 38-year-old migrant rough sleeper from east Africa, who has been street homeless for three years, said he feared being rounded up and detained as a result of the new rules. “I’m not allowed to travel, to work or to claim benefits. What are we expected to do? The government is making decisions for us. My life is no longer my own.”

A government spokesperson said: “For the small minority of migrant rough sleepers who continue to refuse government and local authority support and repeatedly engage in persistent antisocial behaviour, the new immigration reforms mean they could lose their right to be in the UK. This would be a last-resort measure, and initially individuals would be asked to leave voluntarily with government support. In the event that they refuse, we may take the step to remove them.”

Restaurants Rally Round To Feed The Homeless

Hundreds of the nation’s top restaurants will continue to pledge their support to a charity focused on feeding the most vulnerable after the pandemic left them in urgent need of support.

StreetSmart, which raises funds each winter to tackle homelessness by getting food venues to add a small donation to bills, was devastated when it was forced to pause its fundraising campaign due to the national lockdown, reports The Independent. The charity managed to collect £760,000 through its 2019 campaign – and is set to kick-start another run of fundraising the moment restrictions on hospitality are lifted on 2 December with the help of 450 restaurants.

StreetSmart takes all proceeds raised from donations and distributes it to homeless shelters and organisations across the country. Funds are used by the recipients to provide food, shelter and support for rough sleepers during the winter, and to build and refurbish accommodation for young people without a home. As part of the 2020 campaign, venues including Michelin starred restaurants The River Cafe, St John and Core by Clare Smyth are to add a voluntary £1 to diners’ bills to raise money.

However, support did not completely dry up as businesses were forced to close. Throughout the second lockdown OXO Tower Restaurant has backed the charity’s mission and provided lunchboxes of hot meals to be delivered to those who depend on StreetSmart for support. The team of 27 volunteers at the community kitchen produced 2,470 “one-pot wonder” meals which included large quantities of fresh vegetables. Now the business, alongside five star hotel The Ned has pledged to fundraise for the charity during the festive season until the end of January through its campaign.

Other food venues include The Duke of Cambridge in Islington, which is selling freshly baked organic bread every Friday from 11pm to 4pm with all proceeds going to StreetSmart. And Wiltshire Truffles, who raffled a 500g truffle at £5 a ticket during lockdown and raised over £9,000, have teamed up with The Ledbury to sell Truffle Cream – with £1 per jar going towards the campaign.

Glenn Pougnet, director of StreetSmart, said” “The support from restaurateurs has been unflinching even with so many facing uncertain futures themselves. We reboot the campaign this week in London and given the impeccable safety of hospitality venues we have no qualms about urging people to dine out and simply donate £1 per table to help raise these now urgently needed funds.” The charity is also encouraging diners to donate the cost of a meal if they were planning to dine.

‘Remarkable Growth’ Of Housing First

Homeless Link’s ‘Picture of Housing First in England 2020’ research outlines a remarkable growth in Housing First provision across the country – a tripling in the number of services since 2017 serving six times more people facing multiple disadvantage.

The research indicates how far we have come – and how far we still have to go – in our ambition to make Housing First available for everyone who needs it. Earlier this year, the Government announced major new investment in move-on housing and support, and the homelessness sector put long-term plans in place for people placed in emergency accommodation during Everyone In. Undoubtedly, the appetite and the opportunity to follow through on Government commitments to expansion were there.

Now, against the backdrop of a continuing pandemic and many individuals with complex needs returning to the streets, the case for investment in Housing First is clearer than ever. In using this proven approach, we will ensure that people facing multiple disadvantage receive the best possible support to help end their homelessness. Homeless Link’s ‘Picture of Housing First research gives an overview of where we currently stand. It reveals where progress is being made and highlights the opportunities and challenges we face, helping us to identify areas for focus as we move towards the new funding year.

We have witnessed the rapid expansion of Housing First in the last three years, with an estimated 105 services currently operating in England, up from 32 in 2017. 1,995 people can now be supported – a six fold increase on the 350 people in 2017. Services are operating in every region of the country, although the spread is uneven. There are excellent signs of high fidelity to the Housing First Principles, a good indicator of service success. Seventy-one per cent of services have caseloads of six people or fewer, enabling flexible and intensive support. Similarly, the vast majority of services will continue to offer support to a resident if they move from their property, and do not place a time limit on the support offered.

The use of social housing has increased significantly, demonstrating growing support for Housing First among social landlords. Eighty-one per cent of services now use social housing, compared to 61% in 2017, which is encouraging as it provides the most stable – and usually most affordable – accommodation.

Despite this progress, accessing suitable accommodation swiftly, and getting buy-in from landlords continue to be among the greatest challenges reported by services. In addition, affordability barriers to the private rented sector continue to limit its use. The report shows that funding for many services remains short-term, posing an ongoing challenge to Housing First’s open-ended offer of support for residents and reflecting the wider fragmented and competitive homelessness funding environment. While the recent rapid expansion of diverse projects should be celebrated, there is more to do if we want Housing First to be viable and accessible to all those who need it.

Homeless Link will continue to campaign for fair access to housing and statutory services for those facing multiple disadvantage, and for sustainable approaches to funding, which reduce the inherent tension between short-term commissioning cycles and the long-term nature of Housing First support. It will also be important to explore the value of expanding the number of specialist services catering, for example, for women and young people, and how services can reach people from different groups in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexuality, to improve the accessibility of Housing First. As ever, fidelity to the Principles will be key, and we will support services to achieve this.

Homeless Link’s 2020 campaign to expand Housing First, supported by almost 30 social housing providers and stakeholders, included asks of the Government that remain important today. We continue to call for a commitment to long-term funding for the support services needed to enable 16,500 Housing First tenancies over the current Government term, and for a supply of suitable homes to meet the demand for Housing First and wider provision to tackle homelessness.

We have made huge strides in Housing First delivery over the last three years. If we can keep up the momentum of growth and efficacy over the next three, the achievement of our ambitions to provide this support for all those who need it will be well within our reach.

Jail For Robbers Of Homeless Manchester Man

Two thugs who robbed a homeless man of everything he owned, leaving him ‘naked and humiliated’ in the street, have been jailed.

Aaron Kenworthy, 29, and Chris Moyo, 42, came across the man as he slept in a tent in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester city centre, according to a report in The Metro. They dragged the tent along the floor and demanded the victim hand over his possessions, a court heard. Kenworthy sat on the victim as Moyo took off the man’s trousers and trainers, leaving him half-naked.

The men then robbed everything inside the tent including a bank card, a North Face jacket, and his mobile phone, which contained pictures of his children. The victim was left with nothing but the t-shirt on his back as he desperately walked the streets trying to get help. Following a trial earlier this year, Kenworthy and Moyo were found guilty of robbery. Neil Fryman, prosecuting, said the attack happened at around 1am on May 16 this year.

He said: “He was woken up and noticed his tent getting dragged and he heard two voices in a Mancunian accent shouting: ‘Gimme your money, gimme your phone.’ Then they stabbed the tent, making a hole in it. He was in his sleeping bag trying to get out of it and hanging half out of his tent when Moyo jumped at the complainant’s head. With Moyo was another male, whom the complainant didn’t see, but recognised that other male’s voice. After the two defendants dragged the complainant from his tent, Moyo pulled the complainant’s sleeping bag from him and took off the complainant’s trousers and trainers. Kenworthy was sitting on the victim’s saying: ‘I’ll cut your ear off.’

The court heard the victim grabbed the knife, which was in Kenworthy’s hand. As he grabbed it, it cut his ear. Meanwhile, Moyo was punching the man in his head and ribs. Mr Fryman said: “About 30 seconds later, the complainant escaped and made his way to the phone box by Primark in Piccadilly Gardens where he dialled 999.” In a statement read to the court, the victim said the incident left him feeling ‘violated’. Mr Fryman said: “He felt in shock and was freezing cold where his home had been stolen, leaving him with no roof over his head and fearful for his safety.”

Sentencing the pair, Judge Patrick Field QC said: “That tent contained all that he had in the world. You two targeted him and attacked him in a mean and brutal way. You left him naked and humiliated, running around the streets of Manchester. Items of high value and personal sentiment were taken – even the smallest things matter greatly and I am sure they mattered greatly to him.”

Kenworthy, of no fixed address, was jailed for six years and six months. Moyo, of Hillside Avenue, Oldham, was jailed for six years.

New Hostel For New Start In Southport

A former Southport hotel will be converted to provide supported housing for homeless people.

Merseyside charity and SSHG member New Start, put forward plans for what was the Club House Hotel on Leicester Street after seeing a rise in people in the region falling on hard times during the Covid-19 pandemic, reports the Liverpool Echo. Sefton Council’s planning chiefs have given the project green-light, but for a 12-month trial period, only. The plans were recommended for a full approval, but during today’s planning meeting, concerns were raised over antisocial behaviour.

A petition against the plans, signed by 48 people, suggested since the hostel began operating, there has been a “spike in illegal drug dealing, people urinating, and public nuisance” in the area. However, Merseyside Police said there were two recorded call outs in May and three in June of this year, but none since then, and raised no objection to the project.

Cllr Bob McCann said he was in “two minds” over the proposal. He said: “Police reports are not indicative, as you don’t always report your neighbours.

“If you live somewhere, calling the police is a last resort.” But New Start said they were alerted to objections in late August, and were “surprised”, as the “issues raised were not in keeping with the behaviours of residents”. Since then, the charity has written to all Leicester Street residents with information about the work they do, and direct contact details for their area manager with “reassurance we will welcome and quickly deal with any concerns”.

Cllr Waterfield said: “This application is, for all intents and purposes, trying to do something for people, and to help people. At the end of the day, if people aren’t reporting anti-social behaviour to the police, they can’t expect us to take their word that there is an anti-social behaviour problem.”

In their application, New Start said: “New Start currently operates an existing temporary accommodation service for homeless people at Leyland Road, Southport and has done so since July 2015. Our work at Leyland Road led the local authority to contact New Start in March this year for help to provide emergency temporary accommodation solutions for homeless people during the lockdown period associated with Vovid-19. The Government had issued a directive to all Local Authorities to close night shelters, which operated on a shared space basis, and to accommodate all rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping. Lockdown has resulted in a significant increase in homelessness, further highlighting the need for more temporary accommodation for homeless people.”

The 19-bed hostel will be staffed by a minimum of three members of staff of core staff and a Manager Monday to Friday during the day (8am to 6pm) with a minimum of two staff at all other times. Sefton Council’s planning committee will review the service this time next year.

Cash Boost For Manchester Homeless

Forty more beds are to be made available for homeless people in Greater Manchester this winter.

Mayor Andy Burnham said providing the extra capacity under the Bed Every Night scheme would cost £300,000 and come from his Mayoral Priorities Fund. It means the total number of beds available to homeless people in the region will increase to 520.

A homelessness charity recently warned that demand for its services had soared during the coronavirus pandemic. More than £660,000 has also been pledged to support young people identified as being at high risk of homelessness. The one-year pilot scheme will work with 250 to 300 men and women aged under 35. A Bed Every Night, which began in 2018, provides a bed, hot meal and support for anyone at risk of sleeping rough.

Mr Burnham said it had been “an incredibly tough year” for Greater Manchester and warned of a “very challenging winter ahead”. He said about 115 people were currently sleeping rough across the region. “That’s 115 too many, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a really challenging situation.”

Jo Walby, of homelessness prevention charity Mustard Tree, said there had been a huge increase in demand for its services in recent months. Before the pandemic, she said her charity would typically help about 500 people each month. Now that’s soared to more than 1,000 per week.

“What is clear is that the pandemic, as well as being a health issue, is also an economic crisis,” said Ms Walby. “The reality is if people lose their job they can’t pay their rent, they will lose their tenancies, and that’s what we’ve seen.”

There are currently 3,600 individuals and families currently in temporary accommodation across Greater Manchester and 4,500 currently living in emergency accommodation. Mr Burnham, who said his commitment to ending homelessness was “unshakeable”, said this winter “promises to be one of the most difficult we’ve experienced, possibly in our lifetimes”.

Next Year’s Census To Include The Homeless

Ahead of Census 2021, Emily Stidston, the Census Community Partnerships Manager at the Office for National Statistics, tells Homeless Link how people who are homeless or vulnerably housed can take part in the once-in-a-decade survey of the population of England and Wales – and why it is important to do so.

In March 2021, everyone in England and Wales will be expected to complete their census questionnaire – and it is vital we reach people who are homeless and vulnerably housed. The census is for everyone. Once every 10 years, it helps build the most complete picture of the country. The whole population has the chance to provide information that ensures all communities are represented in decisions on funding and services. For the first time, it will be a primarily online census, making it easy for most people to complete on any device. However, while the census will be digital first, support centres and phone lines will be available to help people get online. Paper questionnaires can be requested for those who need them.

In the build up to Census 2021, our census engagement managers will be getting in touch with shelters, hostels and day/night centres to organise times for our census officers to visit to provide paper questionnaires and guidance on filling them out. They will also be raising awareness of the census and encouraging participation. Nearer the time, census officers will hand-deliver a manager questionnaire, which contains a unique access code for online completion, and should be filled out by the centre or shelter manager on census day – 21 March 2021 – as well as individual forms to be completed by those staying at the accommodation. The forms will contain an access code that will enable people to complete online if they prefer.

Working closely with local authorities and grassroots organisations we will be encouraging homeless people to attend homeless accommodations, hostels and day/night shelters in order to complete their census form. Field officers have a 3-day window (20-22nd March) to complete the count for the homeless community and will make individual arrangements with each centre/shelter. A successful census will help give the best picture of the needs of everyone living in England and Wales and it benefits everyone. Based on the information people give, it ensures millions of pounds are invested wisely in areas such as emergency services, mental health care, school places, hospital beds, roads, GP and dental services.

It’s crucial everyone takes part. If analysis that feeds policy decisions doesn’t reflect all sections of society then there is a risk of the needs of different groups not being met. There are also some changes to the way Census 2021 is being run to reflect how we must work in the coronavirus pandemic. We understand the difficulties shelters, hostels and day/night centres are facing currently. Community engagement is vital, so we are working in line with the government’s coronavirus guidance and are able to reach out using new platforms that have emerged during the pandemic. Covid-19 has also made this census more important than ever. Much like the 1921 Census after World War I and Spanish flu in the early 20th century, Census 2021 will be crucial in giving a snapshot of life in the 21st Century.

It is vital that the census sheds light on long-term trends, while also reflecting today’s society; from highlighting areas of deprivation to information on living arrangements and how society has changed since the last census. As well as questions on sex, age, work, health, education and ethnicity, there are new voluntary questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for those aged 16 and over. Gathering this information will ultimately help local communities by allowing charities, local and central governments to understand the services these communities will need, and to monitor equality.

There is also a new question on armed forces veterans to help understand numbers, locations and age ranges of our armed forces community for central and local government, as well as charities providing support for veterans and their families. This is so they can target resources and expertise where they are most needed, to meet their commitments under the Armed Forces Covenant. Although results will be available within 12 months, personal census records (the information people will give next year) will be kept secure for 100 years. Only then can future generations view them.

If you want to get in touch with your local census engagement manager, please email.