There is ‘no need’ to open up empty buildings for the homeless in Sheffield because of lack of demand, city council bosses have said.
Sheffield councillor Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for housing, has said there are already enough provisions for the city’s rough sleepers but added the idea could be looked at again if the situation changed.
The comments follow a 7,000-plus name petition calling for empty buildings to be opened for rough sleepers in the winter – which triggered a debate at a full council meeting.
Although it was rejected, councillors passed a resolution ‘welcoming the work’ that goes on across the city and noted the concerns of residents on the issue.
Coun Dunn said the council was aware of ‘around 11 rough sleepers’ but others who could appear homeless may actually have somewhere to stay and could be involved in begging and drinking on the streets.
A report is also set to be published on the issue of rough sleepers and will be reviewed by the relevant committee.
Coun Dunn said: “Homelessness is an issue that’s very close to my heart and I am committed to doing everything possible to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.
“This includes providing accommodation to anyone forced to sleep on the street in Sheffield. And because we’re able to meet the need for this, we’re not currently planning to open up empty buildings.
“In response to the petition, we passed a resolution which clearly states that if this situation was to change in future and as a city we were unable to meet demand for homelessness support, we would consider all options working alongside our partners, which could include opening empty buildings.
“The research shows that prevention and early support is the best way to help people and this is the approach we’re taking in Sheffield.
“We’re aware of around 11 rough sleepers at the moment. We’re also aware of other people who may appear to be homeless but actually have somewhere to stay and may be involved in street activities such as begging and drinking – and it’s important that we can and do help all these people.”
On the back of the debate, Ukip tried to launch its own resolution to open empty buildings for homeless people but the move was rejected by 80 votes to four.
Ukip group leader Coun Jack Clarkson has hit out claiming other councillors ‘have no interest in helping the homeless’ in Sheffield.
But Chris Dunlop, aged 49, of Heeley Bank Road, who set up the petition, said he was ‘encouraged’ by the debate and discussions surrounding homelessness.
He said: “I started this petition as somebody who didn’t know much about the issues in Sheffield but after the council meeting I was encouraged. It feel like it was something that was taken seriously.
“From the people who spoke across different parties, it did come across like they were genuinely concerned about people living on the streets.”
Following on from a similar petition in Manchester, which was passed by councillors, campaigns website 38 Degrees asked people to set up a petition in other big cities and Chris decided to take it on.
“I can’t definitely say that more needs to be done or not because I’m not an expert and there isn’t an unlimited pot of money. But no one should have to live on the streets,” he said.
“Sheffield is certainly a different case to Manchester. It feels like a little London.”
Chris said the petition attracted thousands of signatures overnight after his campaign was highlighted by The Star.
“The response was amazing,” he said.
“It dawned on me that it’s an issue that people in Sheffield do care about.”
THE COUNCIL RESOLUTION IN FULL
(a) Welcomes the work taking place across the city to tackle homelessness and the concern of local people on this issue.
(b) Understands that because local services are able to meet demand for homelessness services at present, there is no need to open up empty buildings for rough sleepers, but if this situation was to change in future we would consider all options, working alongside our partners, which could include opening empty buildings.
(c) Nevertheless, requests that a report on the issue of support for rough sleepers in the city be submitted to the relevant Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee for consideration.
HELP AND ASSISTANCE SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SAYS IS ON OFFER TO COMBAT THE ISSUE OF HOMELESSNESS
Housing Solutions chairs a multi-agency rough sleepers information sharing group which puts in place an action plan for each rough sleeper with the aim to getting them off the streets and finding suitable accommodation.
The council commissions a rough sleepers service which works with people sleeping on the streets with a focus on securing permanent accommodation. This includes helping people develop life skills, financial management and offering health and wellbeing support.
Every week a number of early morning outreach sessions take place in the city centre to identify and support those people who are sleeping rough. This is a multi-agency approach and includes colleagues from the commissioned service, police and staff from the housing advice and options service.
If people find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness they can contact the housing solutions advice line. An officer will offer support and advice to individuals as well as determine if the council has a duty to provide accommodation, and refer to any supported housing if the person has a housing support need.
If a member of the public identifies a rough sleeper they can contact Turning Point – the commissioned rough sleepers service who will be able to offer support and visit the rough sleeper.
Overnight accommodation is offered to anyone who would be sleeping rough during times of extremely adverse weather. Accommodation offered includes crash pad accommodation and accommodation in hostels.
Sheffield also has a number of non-accommodation based services which offer practical help and advice to rough sleepers including services such as the Archer project and St Wilfrids centre. These offer a drop-in service for the homeless and vulnerable, involving food, clothing, showers and laundry facilities as well as access to healthcare professionals and support to find somewhere to live. Bens Centre also provides a drop-in service for street drinkers. There are a number of people who may not have recourse to public funds and there are organisations such as Assist and the Northern Refugee Centre offering help.
There are also a number of voluntary and faith sector organisations that offer help and support. Further details of what is available can be accessed by contacting the housing options and advice service, Turning Point or one of the drop-in centres.