Latest annual figures show a 62% reduction in the number of people sleeping rough across the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) area.
The number of rough sleepers recorded in local authority autumn snapshot counts has fallen from 115 in 2019 to 44 in 2020, the lowest number in 10 years.
Work undertaken by local authorities and partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors across the region throughout the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic has ensured people who are rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness, have been protected and supported into accommodation.
The region’s efforts have been supported by targeted funding in the early part of the pandemic under the government’s ‘Everyone In’ initiative, which allowed local authorities to quickly mobilise additional accommodation for individuals at risk of rough sleeping.
Continued help for people sleeping rough has been provided and supported by funding which the region has attracted from government including £2.88m of money from the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative to provide local support to those living on the streets. And an additional £8.97m of funding came through initiatives such as the Next Steps Accommodation Programme, Protect Programme and Protect Plus Programme which aim to build on earlier work in the pandemic to provide longer term accommodation for former rough sleepers.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I am delighted that we have seen another significant reduction in the number of rough sleepers across the West Midlands, which shows what can be achieved through collaborative working. From local councils and the West Midlands Combined Authority, to homelessness charities and Government, we would not have been able to help the number of rough sleepers we have without the whole region working in partnership. To go from nearly 170 rough sleepers in 2018 to less than 45 in 2020 is a phenomenal achievement.
“Clearly the Government’s Everyone In initiative throughout the Coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact in helping rough sleepers across the West Midlands, but we would not have been able to make the reductions we have without the hard work and dedication of local authorities and their outreach teams, as well as pioneering schemes such as Housing First – which has now helped more than 350 people into permanent accommodation with wrap-around support – and Change into Action.
“But however well the region may have done over the last two years, it is far from job done. The Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024 is fast approaching and we are still seeing a flow of new people coming onto the streets. As a region we remain determined to continue to tackle rough sleeping, but we must be supported by continued Government funding to ensure we can build on the work we have done in recent years.”
Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, and chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group, said: “We have been able to make a huge impact on rough sleeping through the collective efforts of our local authorities and wider partners. I’m really proud of our response to ensure that people are supported away from the streets at this time of significant challenge.
“However, we are acutely aware that we haven’t yet seen the full financial and housing impacts of Covid-19. Our collective focus in the region is on prevention and protective measures which keep people in homes, jobs and good health. We need a continued commitment from government to direct resources at preventing homelessness, so helping people long before they reach crisis or the streets.”
West Midlands residents are being urged to let local authorities know about anybody who they think may be rough sleeping. They can do this by contacting StreetLink
Residents can also help by making a donation to Change into Action to support charities working with homeless people in Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.