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100k to 'solve' Torbay's homeless problems

A report's been published into Torbay's homeless crisis saying it needs a £918,800 investment over five years to 'reach a point where homelessness levels would plateau'.

The charity Crisis were commissioned by Shekinah to carry out a detailed piece of work to respond to the rising number of rough sleepers in Torbay. 

The authors say they spoke with a range of organisations as well as 50 people who have experienced homelessness in Torbay - although charity Humanity Torbay, which works with the homeless, say they were not contacted.

It comes as a new document - seen by The Breeze -  reveal there's estimated to be 24 rough sleepers in the bay.

Businessman Ashley Sims, who has set up a Torbay hotel to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless  - after founding the controversial Fake Homeless campaign - say he is unable to find more than six.

Click play to hear Ashley Sims speaking to reporter Andrew Kay

The report has resulted in Torbay Council deciding to 'relocate services from Leonard Stocks and move to a dispersed accommodation model' and create 'a team to support people with the most complex lives integrated with other social care pathways'. For more details  click here

Chris Hancock, Head of Housing for Crisis, who wrote the report, said: "This report shows that with the right investment and commitment, Housing First could go a long way to ending homelessness in Torbay.

"The evidence is clear: for the most vulnerable rough sleepers, the best approach is to support people into a stable home of their own as soon as possible and to shape personalised support around them.

"By adopting this approach our report shows that Torbay’s homelessness services could be twice as effective as they are now in ending people’s homelessness for good.

"Implementing Housing First would also be more cost effective in the long-run, creating the extra capacity needed to give all homeless people a route away from the streets."

Click play to hear Crisis head of housing Chris Hancock talking about his report.

The plans worry opposition councillor Steve Darling who supports the new approach in principle but believes emergency temporary beds need to be available and after spending millions on Leonard Stocks the site should be maintained

The report found:

  • There is high demand and unmet need in relation to homelessness services. The data suggests that the current supported accommodation system is supporting some people (roughly 50%) out of homelessness and into more settled housing; but that there isn’t capacity within the system to do this for more people. Those that do not move out of the system remain stuck in and out of services and are high users of other statutory services such as health care. 
  • The study found a high degree of consensus that the current homelessness system can work well for those that can access it, but despite the best efforts of many individuals working in homelessness services not enough people are able to access the system. 
  • There is a significant use of emergency accommodation, mainly Bed and Breakfast accommodation for single people considered to be in priority need as per Homelessness
  • Legislation. The proportion of single people to families in emergency accommodation in Torbay is 65% whereas the national average is 20%.
  • There are some strong examples of multi-agency work, for example where health services and social care are being provided as part of the support at Leonard Stocks House to residents and nonresidents on-site. However, these services need additional capacity to meet the high levels of demand for them. For Housing First to succeed, consideration would need to be given as to how they can be delivered flexibly to people in dispersed accommodation.
  • The application of strict local connection criteria leads to homeless people with relatively low, initial support needs remaining on the street whilst they become more entrenched and develop support needs which are then only met though crisis services such as primary health care. Opportunities to prevent homelessness and save costs in the longer term are being missed
  • Overall. the homelessness system is disjointed, without a clear overall sense of pathway from prevention, to intervention, to recovery and then move on for everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness. Individual interventions at each stage can be seen to be successful but there are few examples of people moving through each stage seamlessly and out of homelessness for good. 

Councillor Cindy Stocks, Executive Lead for Housing, said: "We know our current system isn't working for everyone, which is why finding the funding and inviting Crisis to visit has helped us to see how we can improve to end street homelessness.  The Housing First approach certainly sounds like the best option for us in Torbay, and working together we can do things differently. Not only will it house those that are experiencing or threatened with homelessness, but it will resettle them as quickly as possible in their own homes. This approach also ensures those who have complex needs receive intensive support for as long as they need it.

“The model proposed is an ambitious one. Crisis proposals won’t mean a loss in service, just a different approach. It also builds upon the initial work undertaken by TESH (Torbay End Street Homeless). It will require additional spending from all those involved. This is due to the key challenge in Torbay being one of capacity primarily rather than inefficiency. We will now be looking at how we can implement these recommendations and a multi-agency group will also be set up to develop a detailed plan and how the funds can be found to deliver this."

John Hamblin, Chief Executive of Shekinah, said: "For over 25 years, Shekinah has been supporting people who are homeless and rough sleeping. During this time we have repeatedly seen the failure of the current accommodation system to support people with multiple and complex needs. The result has been the creation of a revolving door system where people are falling in and out of services and are often left with no access to accommodation. We are hoping that through this Nationwide Foundation funded study, Shekinah and its partners can start to realise the aspiration that everyone deserves a place to call home."

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