In North Devon it is estimated that on any given night there are between 10 – 15 people sleeping rough in our communities. Around 70 – 80% of these people are local and find themselves homeless for a range of reasons such as a relationship breakdown, addiction or loss of a job. By working together with local organisations, we are helping these and others not only into appropriate accommodation but onto paths towards better lives for them and the wider community.
The Housing Hub
A fortnightly ‘Housing Hub’, chaired by North Devon Council and run at the Freedom Centre allows a group of local organisations – Julian House, Sanctuary Supported Living, Alabare Christian Care and Support, local police, probation, Rise and Freedom – to work together. Informed by each organisation’s work in the community and regular outreach rounds of rough sleeper spots, the hub are able to assess and prioritise rough sleepers, using an assessment matrix developed by hub agencies with government funding in 2014, for placement in a type of accommodation that best supports their needs.
Ian Gibson of Julian House and part of the rough sleeper outreach team explains the aim of the regular rounds. ‘Our early morning outreach has two main purposes: one is to ensure people we find rough sleeping are OK and not in need of pressing or emergency assistance – the harsh reality is that life expectancy for long-term rough sleepers and homeless individuals in the UK is just 47 years old. The second purpose is to give a clear message about the options that are available locally (or further afield if appropriate). Our approach is friendly but firm, and above all respectful.’
Appropriate housing and needs run on a scale from high, complex needs, catered for by Sanctuary Supported living in Barnstaple, through to ‘move on accommodation’ at the other end and provided by our Freedom Housing with 24 beds over 6 properties where tenants with less complex issues are supported to find work, manage their finances, cook for themselves and generally prepare for independence and reintegrate with the community.
A multi-agency holistic approach to helping homeless people
As Natasha Rowland, Service Lead for Housing Equality at North Devon Council says ‘The Housing Hub allows a multi-agency, holistic response to homelessness and the wider associated issues which affect our clients, with the added benefit of effective information sharing which gives a much better awareness and knowledge of the needs of our clients, with the aim of [them] no longer being ‘pushed from pillar to post. [This] gives clients more appropriate support and each client has a considered and achievable individual support plan in place.’
‘Often the quickest or ‘easiest’ answer isn’t necessarily sustainable in the longer term and people can quickly find themselves homeless or back on the streets again.’ adds Ian Gibson. ‘By pooling our knowledge, resources and ideas we stand a much better chance of finding a way to end the cycle of homelessness that many people become trapped in. Obviously, this is not only fantastic for the individual but also massively beneficial to the wider community.’
Our Engage Community Hub
In conjunction with the Housing Hub, our Engage Community Hub provides a one-stop-shop of support for not only those in supported housing and ex-offenders but also the wider community. By working in tandem, and having both hubs run from the Freedom Centre, people are able to access a range of services and support networks from the one spot providing our local community with a strong integrated ‘safety net’ that often catches people before they slip into homelessness.
Regular donations help us to keep these services running for vulnerable people.