Funds to help get homeless off the streets
People sleeping rough in Bath and North East Somerset are getting extra help to get off the streets thanks to new Government cash. But one local councillor fears the council could be left to foot the bill when the extra money runs out and said it should be used to help local people, not outsiders. The local authority has won £680,000 of new Government funding to assist the dozens who sleep in the district’s streets, parks and car parks each night. The funding made available under the government’s Rough Sleeper Strategy will allow B&NES Council to provide a range of extra services for the district’s rough sleepers at least until the money runs out in 18 months’ time. Those services include 20 extra beds at Bath’s homeless shelter Julian House over winter, additional mental health support on the streets, help at the point of hospital discharge, rent in advance to take advantage of tenancy opportunities, and support to keep tenancies. The council is “very confident” the initiative will see rough sleeper numbers fall this winter, members of its planning, housing and economic development policy development and scrutiny panel heard on Tuesday. But panel member and Conservative councillor for Midsomer Norton North, Barry Macrae, said he was worried the council would be eventually be asked to fund the initiative. He was especially concerned about the possibility of paying for the third of the estimated 33 rough sleepers in B&NES who are not “locals”. Praising efforts to reconnect rough sleepers from outside B&NES with their communities, he said: “Brilliant, send them back to where they came from; look after the people that are here that have got issues that need looking after. “But don’t come to me in two years’ time and say the government’s stopped the money, can we have some more because we want to help 10 people who have got nothing to do with us,” Mr Macrae told council officers at the meeting. “Go stop those 10 from even getting here. I’m sorry, you’re doing a positive job but don’t become complacent to accept it and gold-plate it. Stop it happening. That’s good use of money.” An officer said the council took a humanitarian approach to rough sleepers from outside the council area, letting them stay at Julian House for one or two nights while providing a “rapid assessment and reconnection service” to encourage them back to their local area. “We are trying to get upstream to the prevent people becoming rough sleepers. But like it or not some people are already here,” the panel heard. The money won by the council includes £320,000 for the six months to the end of March 2019 and another £360,000 for the following 12 months. The council has already had an indication from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that the funding could be extended beyond 18 months.