Thursday, 27 April 2017

London No second night out using temporary bed spaces due to benefit delay

Rough sleeping scheme forced to add beds

The London mayor’s flagship rough sleeping initiative has been forced to procure temporary bed spaces to prevent its assessment centre ‘silting up’ with homeless people.

No second night out procured 34 temporary bed spaces in June to help meet its aim to move people on from its assessment centre - or ‘hub’ - within three days.

The project, set up by Boris Johnson last April, has successfully helped more than half the 2,738 rough sleepers who have come through its doors seeking accommodation.

But a shortage of private rented accommodation, delays in benefits and difficulties finding rental deposits have made it difficult to move everyone out of the hub in the three days originally intended.

Petra Salva, director of the No second night out project, said the 34 temporary bed spaces were sufficient currently but that she fears the situation will worsen with cuts to welfare benefit and soaring rents in London.

Six months after its launch, the project had to acquire two houses for people to stay in while their benefits were processed and private rented accommodation was found.

But on 1 June this year Ms Salva confirmed it had procured an additional 34 bed spaces to stop the hub ‘silting up’ or people being left on the streets.

The move represents a shift for a scheme that was set up to act as an ‘accident and emergency department for homeless people’ that would not have its own bed space.

Ms Salva added: ‘Finding [accommodation for vulnerable people] within 72 hours is not going to happen. For someone to make a first-time [housing benefit] claim, [it] takes three weeks.’

‘It’s definitely going to get worse. We are managing to cope with it at the moment, but there [will be] additional pressures with the private rented sector and universal credit.’

David Carter, chief executive of the No second night initiative that started in Liverpool in January, said it was also becoming harder to hit the 72-hour deadline in the city due to increasing numbers of people coming to its hub.

From February to November the number of rough sleepers dealt with by the Liverpool hub rose by 38 per cent, from 83 rough sleepers in April to 101 in October.

Rick Henderson, chief executive of umbrella group Homeless Link, said: ‘It’s vital that private rents are made affordable, a licensing system is introduced for all landlords and there is more regulation of lettings agents if we are to get people off the streets and into accommodation more quickly.’

Rick Blakeway, deputy mayor for housing in London, said the London Delivery Board, set up to co-ordinate the aim to end rough sleeping in the capital, will consider the future of the No second night out initiative at a meeting on 21 November.

In numbers: No second night out

1,498 - number of people helped to find accommodation in London

34 - number of temporary bed spaces the project has available

35 - number of No second night out projects in the country outside London

£750,000 - total funding for London’s No second night out project to date

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