Havering Council says there is no reason for anyone to be homeless at Christmas after just two rough sleepers found in latest count
- Credit: Archant
Havering Council is hoping to have no rough sleepers on the streets over Christmas.
Volunteers from the council, charities, police, local residents and other voluntary organisations targeted hotspots around the borough in a national annual count and found two rough sleepers - however there are 10 others that are known to the council.
Investigation work carried out by the Recorder revealed that at least three homeless people have died in the borough in the last year, however no records of their deaths have been kept, and data released by charity Shelter shows that an additional 490 people are now homeless in Havering since the November 2017 figure of 1,956.
Of the 2,446 currently homeless, research shows 22 are rough sleepers and the remaining 2,424 are living in temporary accommodation.
This means one in 105 people are now homeless in Havering, up from one in 129 last year.
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Council teams are working with a number of organisations, charities and services to provide essential help and support over the winter months.
Partners such as The Salvation Army will provide food, showers and sleeping bags, while Hope 4 Havering runs a night shelter with free meals.
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During the winter months, homeless people can access numerous resources, such as the council’s Housing Options Team for advice and support to find accommodation; breakfast on Sundays at venues such as Church Without Walls in Romford Market Square and lunch and clothing from The Apostolic Church off North Street.
Home starter packs are provided by The Salvation Army and Peabody Trust, which contain toiletries, cups, cutlery, etc, to help rough sleepers in their new accommodation.
Havering recently took part in a national annual count to get a snapshot of the number of rough sleepers on the borough’s streets at any one time.
Thirty eight volunteers targeted hotspots around the borough such as the town centre, railway stations and the local hospital on Thursday night (December 29) and encountered just two rough sleepers.
Councillor Joshua Chapman, cabinet member for housing, said: “The number of rough sleepers we saw during the count is a good sign that the council are on top of what has become a growing issue all over the country.
“However, this was just one night and the council know of at least 12 people sleeping rough.
“The people we see in the day may not necessarily be there in the evening, as some sofa-surf or go elsewhere.
“It’s also important to note that not everyone chooses to accept the help or accommodation offered by the council.
“We have actively sought out rough sleepers to make them aware that help is available but unfortunately in some instances they have turned down offers of support.”
He said the council and numerous agencies, such as The Salvation Army, Hope 4 Havering and The Samaritans are geared up to help rough sleepers and to provide them with access to vital support, care, advice and housing services.
The council is also keen that money donated to rough sleepers goes where it can best be used and is encouraging the public to give directly to the charities and organisations who provide shelter, food, toiletries and haircuts, rather than people who are begging but may have homes and accommodation and are already receiving support.
This year 23 people were helped off the streets in Havering and have been housed with ongoing support provided by Peabody Trust, while a further 20 have been housed by Hope 4 Havering in self-contained move-on properties.
Thirty-seven-year old Lee found himself homeless after his relationship broke down with his sister.
He spent over 20 months on the streets and sofa-surfing, but after being on the streets he was taken to a night shelter where he was given help and support.
Lee said he misused substances and after going through a nine-week detox with Hope 4 Havering, is gradually rehabilitating.
He said: “One day she called me up out of the blue and on the same day offered me accommodation. It has changed my life.”
But he says that leaving life on the streets behind does have an impact.
“I have battled depression and have felt isolated, but once I get off my medication I will go back to the gym and start looking for work. When you are homeless everything is provided for you. Everyone is giving you stuff, but it changes when you get a place and you need to be more independent.
“I was lucky when I homeless. It was a good summer so the weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The conditions can get really bad.”
If a member of the public does see someone sleeping rough on the streets, they can contact the council via htps://www.havering.gov.uk/info/20001/housing/331/rough_sleepers_in_havering or via London Street Link, https://www.streetlink.org.uk/