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Do your bit to help tackle homelessness in Havering this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 12:30 18 December 2019

Data from Shelter shows that one in 105 people are now homeless in Havering, up from one in 129 last year. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images/ Nick Ansell

Data from Shelter shows that one in 105 people are now homeless in Havering, up from one in 129 last year. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images/ Nick Ansell

PA Wire/PA Images

Havering Coucil is stepping up its efforts as it works to ensure that no rough sleepers are left without a roof over their heads this Christmas.

Officers from the local authority are working with a number of other organisations and charities to provide essential support to the borough's homeless over the winter months - with a heavy focus on trying to tackle the root causes of their rough sleeping.

A survey of known rough sleepers in Havering last year found more than three quarters of them were also battling mental health, alcohol or drug-related issues that desperately needed addressing - in the majority of cases it is not as simple as just offering housing support.

If the underlying issues are not addressed - people who have been supported into accommodation can often end up back on the streets.

By working collaboratively, Havering Council now hopes these complex issues can be addressed to successfully keep more people off the streets.

The local authority has recently opened its cold weather shelter in Romford to help those rough sleepers over the winter.

Partners such as The Salvation Army provide food, showers and sleeping bags, while Hope4Havering runs a night shelter with free meals and provides further accommodation.

Havering Council and the Peabody Trust also provide longer-term support for mental health issues, housing and health assistance.

But residents are also being asked to do their part to help tackle rough sleeping this Christmas.

It can be tempting to hand money directly to rough sleepers, but often that cash can be better used if it is given directly to the charities and organisations who provide shelter, food, and support, rather than to people who are begging but may have homes and accommodation and are already receiving support.

Last week, Havering Council also launched a consultation on a new Homelessness Prevention and Rough Sleeper Strategy.

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The strategy sets out how the council plans to tackle rough sleeping over the next five years through early intervention, improved partnership working, supporting vulnerable residents and increasing the supply of affordable housing.

You can read more about it at consultation.havering.gov.uk. That consultation opened on Friday (December 13) and is due to run until February 9 next year.

The borough's cabinet member for housing, Councillor Joshua Chapman, said: "Havering Council is committed to tackling the underlying causes of rough sleeping.

"We are aware of rough sleepers in the borough and frequently reach out to them to build trust, understand their needs and get them into accommodation.

"But it's also important to note that not everyone chooses to accept the help or accommodation offered by the council. We actively seek out rough sleepers to make them aware that help is available.

"Working together with local charities like The Salvation Army and Hope4Havering is a vital part of tackling the root causes of rough sleeping and getting people into long-term accommodation.

"We're asking residents to do their part by letting us know when they see rough sleepers so that we can assist them."

If a member of the public does see someone sleeping rough on the streets, they can contact Havering Council by visiting www.havering.gov.uk/roughsleepers or by using the StreetLink app.

Havering Council can then offer support and help them to access the services they need. The rough sleeper will be assessed and helped to be reconnected to their local area if requested.

In 2018/19, 46 rough sleepers were helped off the streets in Havering, with 20 rough sleepers being housed in accommodation by local charity Hope 4 Havering.

Others are receiving help from the night shelter run by Hope 4 Havering.

Last month, volunteers raised more than £9,000 for Hope4Havering by joining management at Romford's The Brewery Shopping Centre for a sponsored sleep-out in the centre's car park in Waterloo Road.

Participants in the event also heard from invited guest speakers who had first-hand experience of what it was like to sleep rough in Romford.

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