Homelessness in Kirklees – your questions answered
Ahead of the Big Sleep Out at the John Smith’s Stadium tonight, we asked our housing team to answer some of the common questions we get asked about homelessness in Kirklees.
What is the difference between someone who is homeless and a rough sleeper?
Someone is homeless when they don’t have a permanent home that is safe, secure or adequate. They may be about to be evicted, be threatened with domestic abuse or sleeping on someone’s sofa short term. Rough sleepers are those who are bedded down on the streets, in doorways, parks or any place not designed to be lived in. Most people who are homeless are not rough sleeping, but they still need help.
What support is available to help people get off the streets?
Everyone’s situation is different and people end up on the streets for all sorts of reasons, from poor mental health to substance misuse, bad money management to health issues. As a result, we don’t have a standard list of help available. Instead, our Housing Solutions Service work closely with other staff, partners and community groups to give specialist support so that people can link in to the appropriate help.
Why do we not offer services (beds) for homeless people all year round and not just in cold weather?
Our homelessness service runs all year, giving people support and access to somewhere to stay wherever possible. Clare House is a hostel for single people rough sleeping or in danger of rough sleeping who want to get off the streets. When the weather is very cold, we activate our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) which makes it easier for people to have an emergency bed while they talk with appropriate teams to get the right support. This winter has been particularly harsh and we’ve run SWEP for 38 nights to date. Thanks to this we’ve helped over 35 people have a warm bed for the night and we’re continuing to support those who’ve kept in contact with our Housing Solutions team. We are now considering whether a winter shelter provision, which would be available throughout winter regardless of weather, would be possible for future years.
Why can’t you provide somewhere for people living on the streets to stay, especially when there are so many empty buildings?
There are all sorts of reasons why people become homeless and none of these problems are easy to solve. The reasons that have led someone to the streets can often leave them less likely to trust people who are trying to help them and mean that it takes them a long time to accept help. Finding accommodation is one part of the solution but it only works longer term if we can match that up with the right type of personal support so that the person is in the right frame of mind to manage a home.
You say all this help is available, so why are so many people still on the streets?
With trust issues and a fear of coming back into regular society, some people develop a close social network and a sense of freedom living on the streets, and they worry about losing this once they are ‘within the system’. Together with our partners, we are looking at better ways to establish rapport and gain people’s trust so that they start talking to the relevant support services. By doing these, we can help to improve lives and get people off the streets forever.
Why do there seem to be more homeless people?
The causes of homelessness are increasing. Relationship breakdowns among family and friends, ending of short term rental agreements, domestic abuse and debt are on the rise. There is help and assistance available and, with early intervention, homelessness can be prevented. During 2017, we helped prevent homelessness for 1,870 households. Where homelessness cannot be prevented we provide a safety net of temporary accommodation for families and those most vulnerable. We also have access to a purpose built hostel for single people sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough. Clare House has 20 beds and provides intensive one-to-one support to help people to move on with the skills needed to sustain their own home. Over the past year they have supported for 67 single people.
If a rough sleeper has a dog are they given the same support?
We understand the relationship some people have with their pets and we allow pets wherever possible. Clare House work closely with the Dog’s Trust. The hostel has purpose built kennels and provides free advice, microchipping and support for dog owners. We allow pets in most of our properties and we consider this when allocating emergency accommodation.
How do homeless people know about the support on offer?
The Council’s Housing Solutions Service is available in person at our Customer Service Centres, on telephone (01484 221350) and online. We have adverts for the service in leaflets that can be found across Kirklees, in places like GP Surgeries, health centres and public places like leisure centres and libraries. In addition to our support, there are a range of partner organisations, charities and volunteer groups that are also supporting people who fall in and out of homelessness, or live on the streets. These outreach workers know what help is on offer and pass the information on to those that need it.
If people are given a bed, are they given transport/ money for transport to get there?
When temporary accommodation or an emergency bed is provided by Housing Solutions Service then we help people to get to the location. Out of hours, any special needs would be assessed on an individual basis.
When homeless people have a bed for the night are they able to stay in the warm through the day or do they have to go back out onto the streets?
Where an emergency bed is provided for the night under our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), the person is expected to engage with Housing Solutions Officers the following morning so we can look at their housing and support needs. This may result in temporary accommodation, a food parcel or advice on local facilities available.
How can I help?
There are some ideas of how you can help in our How to Help Change a Life article.