Birmingham City Council, Council House

Birmingham’s lead on homelessness, Cllr Sharon Thompson has today (31/01) called on Government to put greater focus into the prevention of homelessness and to begin to tackle some of the policies and processes which cause homelessness.

Birmingham currently has 91 rough sleepers according to results published today. However this is representative of the national picture. Per 10,000 households, the national average rate for rough sleepers is 2.0. In Birmingham, this figure is 2.1, which is the lowest of all authorities which is included in the ten highest ranking authorities for rough sleepers.

Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council said: “These figures highlight a major homelessness crisis in England and if the government is going to meet its target of zero rough sleepers by 2027, it’s absolutely clear that they need to do much more.

“Ministers must tackle the policies that have fuelled a massive rise in homelessness since 2010 and there must be greater emphasis on prevention, rather than waiting for people to reach a crisis-point.

“Like councils across the country, Birmingham City Council is working hard with partners to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness, but more importantly to tackle the underlying issues that contribute towards people becoming homeless in the first place.

“More now than ever, health and wellbeing related issues in the homeless community mean that the solution isn’t as simple as just finding a house for people to live in. Substance misuse such as mamba and other psychoactive substances are prevalent on our streets.

“It’s therefore imperative that the homeless are given the right support to treat their health concerns in conjunction with finding safe and sustainable housing. This is why, when we joined with organisations from across the city in June last year to launch the Birmingham homelessness prevention strategy, an emphasis was placed on working with health and substance misuse partners.

“When talking about rough sleeping and homelessness, it is these interventions which are key. Through our ongoing work with partners, we will continue to work to design out homelessness in Birmingham so that all citizens have access to the help and services that they both need and deserve.”

The annual rough sleeper count gives the government a snapshot of information on where rough sleeping is on the increase and which local authorities might be finding success in combating it.

In a recent letter from MHCLG to the Council, Birmingham’s efforts in introducing the prevention strategy for homelessness and the action plan that has been commissioned by the local authority to address rough sleeping was praised as “encouraging” and “effective”.

In response to the increase in people sleeping rough in the city, the Birmingham Homelessness Partnership Board which comprises of over 20 partners from across the voluntary sector including homelessness charities, registered landlords and public sector said,

“We know that homelessness is everybody’s business and in Birmingham we have a strong and diverse Homelessness Partnership Board that brings together, voluntary sector organisations including homelessness charities, public sector bodies, registered landlords and the Local Authority.

“We have all made a commitment both individually and collectively to ensure that we provide access to advice and services which prevent people from having to sleep rough; to engage with those who feel this is their only option and to support them off the streets and stick with them through recovery and towards a settled home.

“In Birmingham we are working towards designing homelessness out of our system. But we can only do so much; there is much that is not within our gift to deliver. We will continue to prevent, to intervene and to support recovery.

“However if we’re really serious about ending rough sleeping, then we need a national commitment to address the impact of the sustained cuts to public and voluntary sector support services.

“We need cross-government commitment to increase our supply of truly affordable housing, to re-align housing benefits with housing costs, ensure that the welfare system supports people retaining their tenancies and to provide timely access to advice, health and wellbeing support, before people reach crisis.”