Councils push to house all rough sleepers

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Waltham Forest and Redbridge Council say they are working hard to house all their rough sleepers after new coronavirus instructions from the Government.

Last week, local councils were asked by the Government to find housing for rough sleepers by the weekend to allow them to self-isolate and prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Redbridge Council, which previously allowed an Ilford day centre to remain open to support rough sleepers, has now set up a “special facility” at the Ryedale Care Centre.

Waltham Forest Council, meanwhile, is “working hard” to find accommodation for all rough sleepers and encourages residents to notify Streetlink if they see anyone still sleeping rough.

Redbridge

Figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) show there were more than 100 rough sleepers in Redbridge at the end of last year.

Cabinet member for housing and homelessness Cllr Farah Hussain said on Friday (March 27) that staff were “working around the clock” to house everyone.

The Welcome Centre in Ilford, which previously provided showers, clothing and food to the homeless during the day, was closed on Thursday (March 26).

These services were moved to a new “special facility for rough sleepers” at the Ryedale Care Centre in Roman Road, Ilford.

Speaking on Friday, Cllr Hussain said: “Thanks to the sheer hard work and determination of our staff and partners who have all gone the extra mile, yesterday we were able to set up a special facility for rough sleepers at the Ryedale Care Centre, where we can accommodate the rough sleepers that need our help.

“This facility will be staffed on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week, and will enable a large number of those rough sleeping in Redbridge to isolate safely, throughout the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone for responding in such a positive way to what is a very challenging situation. It’s what makes Redbridge such a fantastic place to live and work.”

The council’s new temporary accommodation site Malachi Place opened earlier this month, providing 40 bed spaces, alongside 45 bed spaces at other sites in the borough.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal added: “I am so proud of all the incredible work staff across the council are doing to support local people during this difficult time.

“Our housing and homelessness team, under the leadership of cabinet member Farah Hussain and head of housing Jackie Odunoye, have gone above and beyond to help local rough sleepers and really are an inspiration to us all.

“Although we are facing an unpreceded challenge in the form of COVID-19, I have been so impressed and humbled by the dedication and commitment of our staff, from the refuse workers, registrars, children’s and adults teams to our housing and homelessness team. All across Redbridge I know an astounding amount of work is going on to support local people.”

Waltham Forest

Figures from CHAIN indicate there were around 40 rough sleepers in Waltham Forest at the end of last year.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for shelter, said: “Waltham Forest Council is working hard to secure temporary accommodation for all rough sleepers. 

“We will be moving people from the borough’s night shelter and other known rough sleepers into accommodation as soon as possible.

“If residents are concerned about someone who may be sleeping rough in their area, I urge them to use the Tell Streetlink smartphone app to connect them with local support services.”

A Freedom of Information request shows Streetlink has received more than 4,600 reports from Waltham Forest since 2012.

However, fewer than 900 of these reports were updated by the Street Outreach Service to say that the person was found.

Since October 2018, 64 people have been successfully housed through Streetlink.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter