West Midlands receives £9.6m to launch rough sleeping pilot

The Government today (Wednesday) confirmed funding worth £9.6m over three years for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to launch a project to help rough sleepers off the streets.

The pilot, based on Housing First, will be overseen by the WMCA and the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street’s Homelessness Task Force alongside the seven local authorities, housing providers and homelessness charities in the region.

The project will offer individuals safe, secure accommodation, alongside intensive support to help them recover from complex health issues such as substance abuse and mental health difficulties.

West Midlands receives £9.6m to launch rough sleeping pilot

Housing secretary James Brokenshire, centre, and Mayor Andy Street with Carly Jones, chief executive officer of Sifa Fireside.

It is based on the Housing First approach to supporting rough sleepers into long-term accommodation which originated in Finland and has proven successful in many countries.

Initially, it will seek to work with long-term rough sleepers to help them off the streets along with individuals at risk of homelessness and those with particularly challenging needs.

Back in October, Andy Street visited Helsinki to see how Housing First has made a significant impact on rough sleeping with a view to trialling the same approach in the West Midlands.

Andy said: “Having seen Housing First in action, I can vouch for the positive impact it has on supporting rough sleepers and came back determined we trial it here in the West Midlands.

“In essence, it can provide people who are homeless with a new start, somewhere to call home. From there, they will be given support to help them rebuild their lives.

“Now the funding has been confirmed we will work with charities and local authorities on getting the pilot up and running.

“The latest figures suggest a modest decrease in the last 12 months in the West Midlands - I hope funding for projects like Housing First will help us continue and accelerate this progress.”

Jean Templeton, chair of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force, said: “A huge amount of work has gone into preparing the bid to Government for this pilot and we are really pleased with the outcome.

“Now the funding is confirmed, we can really push on. We’ve done a lot of the groundwork in terms of sourcing accommodation and developing the systems. Now, we are aiming to start moving individuals into Housing First tenancies within the next three to six months.”

Across the West Midlands, specialist Street Intervention Teams will identify and work with rough sleepers who will be given support through a total of 225 tenancies each year.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire today joined West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council at Sifa Fireside in Birmingham today.

The West Midlands is one of three areas in the country to get money to trial Housing First.

Funding has also been announced for Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region.

Mr Brokenshire said: "The evidence shows Housing First has an incredible rate of success in providing rough sleepers with the support they need to get off the streets and to rebuild their lives.

"I believe these pilots will have a positive impact in their areas and I look forward to hearing about their successes over the coming months."

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