I have taken a particular interest in homelessness, as a former social worker I have had some insight into the nightmare, trauma and worse for many people who become homeless. Indeed next week I am one of the councillors signed up to support Gloucestershire Nightstop's campaign, 'My Life in a Bag.' You may know they work with young people aged 16 – 25 who find themselves homeless at short notice and need somewhere to stay; they find them temporary accommodation in the homes of volunteers and help them to move on to somewhere more permanent (more of that soon in a blog).
I am also wholly opposed to the cuts and changes to benefits that are forecast to increase homelessness - and have also campaigned against the changes to squatting rights; it is surely only an uncivilised society who could make it illegal to stay in empty buildings while making people homeless? At the District in the Budget this last week some additional money was put aside to help with the Housing Benefit changes and towards increasing Credit Unions ability to reach people - we also now have a Financial Inclusion Officer as preventing problems saves huge sums of money. See also my more general issue letter about the housing crisis that I wrote to the press 14 months ago - sadly the situation is getting worse since then.
I think there is still not an awareness amongst many people of the importance of a home on health, wellbeing and community. Three years ago I chaired two scrutiny task and finish groups which looked at housing standards in Stroud District - among the recommendations that have been accepted were to develop an energy strategy for our Council housing and to work with tenants on a Stroud Housing standard - I am delighted these have made possible a whopping £12 million investment in Council housing for energy efficiency measures and renewables; £5m next year and £7m the year after. Great for cutting carbon and reducing growing fuel poverty - and increasing local jobs and developing an income for the council. £12 million is more than I could have dreamed of when I first started the inquiries – but is desperately needed for our poor quality housing stock.
We also look set to build some council housing for the first time in many many years; my hope is we can focus on housing that is needed for the 3,000 plus households on our waiting lists.
Apologies I hadn't meant to get into all these issues but they are all linked and are about how we can prevent homelessness in the first place - an area I am particularly interested in improving at the moment is the private-rented sector - but in terms of policy regarding this cold, cold weather which is what the campaign is focusing on........ the County has a severe cold weather procedure which I've added below - click 'read more' to see it.
This procedure is over and above the normal emergency homelessness service provided in this county by Social Care's Emergency Duty Team whenever the housing authority offices are closed. When they are open it is the Housing Advice Team that is responsible for homelessness. There is a new national reporting system in operation called streetlink for anyone to report if they see a rough sleeper. The information is then passed on to a local contact who will aim to find the rough sleeper and feedback result. The local contact in this county is GEAR who have outreach workers in each district.
Gloucestershire severe cold weather protocol 2012/13
Severe weather definition:
When the temperature is forecast to drop to zero degrees (or below) for three consecutive nights, the arrangements below will be implemented on the first night of the forecast.
An occasional forecast above zero in a series of sub- zero nights or the impact of rain, snow and wind chill should also be considered in relation to ‘severe weather’
- Each local authority will monitor the weather conditions for their area in relation to the definition above and make a decision on whether the severe cold weather arrangements apply.
- Each local authority will continue to implement individual arrangements for the placement of rough sleepers into temporary accommodation during severe weather. Each LA will help the person complete a Housing Benefit claim where necessary
- Due to weather variations across the county, EDT will be notified by each individual local authority when severe weather conditions apply in their area and instruct EDT to place any rough sleepers who are referred to them out of hours into temporary accommodation for the duration of the severe cold weather. EDT to e-mail relevant LA if they make a placement.
- The County Homelessness Coordinator must be notified of any placements made under the severe cold weather arrangements.
- A referral to the county outreach team must also be made by the relevant local authority to advise them of the placement and request contact with the rough sleeper.
- Payments for placement into temporary accommodation under the severe cold weather arrangements will be met from the DCLG county prevention and rough sleeper fund and invoices should be sent to Cotswold District Council – for the attention of Oonagh Laidler – Housing Partnership Officer.
- Ella Hawkins - County Homelessness Coordinator Tel: 01452 328582
- Oonagh Laidler – Housing Partnership Officer Tel: 01285 623121
Cotswold District Council, Trinity Road, Cirencester, Glos – GL7 1PX email@example.com
· Mike Waller – Emergency Duty Team Manager Tel: 01452 614194 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
The EDT number should only be used out of normal office hours