Interview with Mark Grant, deputy chief executive at Broadway.
By Amy Taylor
The number of new rough sleepers in London has fallen by 20 per cent between 2002 and 2005. What have been the key policies that have enabled this to be achieved?
Since the formation of the Rough Sleepers Unit and the creation of the Homelessness Directorate and the “More than a Roof” strategy, there has been much better co-ordination between the homelessness sector, government and local authorities. In particular there has been specific work targeting those most at risk of going onto the street e.g. working with those leaving prison, care and the armed forces. The fall is a great achievement, but obviously anyone sleeping on the streets is one too many and we still have a lot of work to do to get to a point where we have an adequate safety-net for all those who become homeless.
The number of people housed in permanent and temporary accommodation in London who were evicted or abandoned their tenancies has stayed at over a third since 2003. Why do you think this is and what needs to be done about it?
Despite the work being done to prevent people becoming street homeless, the level of support many individuals need to maintain a home is still very high. There is a group of individuals whose social exclusion, and related support needs, are still too high for them to manage in the community. Often the homelessness sector picks up and works with individuals that statutory agencies can’t assist. This includes those who are more challenging to work with such as people with dual diagnosis or a personality disorder. Homelessness sector agencies are expected to manage these individuals on fewer resources than statutory services have. Supporting People funding has helped, but the average unit cost a week for providing care to an entrenched rough sleeper is about £150. If this is compared to the cost of other community care provision you will see that homelessness agencies have much less to work with.
Does is demonstrate that more tenancy sustainment teams are required?
There is not enough specialist accommodation in London, so those with high support needs are sometimes housed in hostels that are not adequately equipped to deal with them – this can lead to them and others (who can’t cope living with them) abandoning or being evicted. The government is investing over £90 million in upgrading hostels but this need to be backed up with revenue support. Many local authorities are using Supporting People funding to commission floating support services as it is cheaper than accommodation based support, but there are still the group mentioned above who need much more intensive support to be able to live in the community.
Could strict rules in hostels, such as times people have to be in by, play a part in making people go back onto the street?
I think they could certainly play a part in some people abandoning – some may go back to the streets or find alternative accommodation e.g. church shelters. Some services have to house some of the most chaotic and vulnerable individuals and there needs to be certain boundaries for staff and clients to be safe. However we have to question if the accommodation we provide is appropriate, and at times the size and nature of the hostel means that some clients just can not manage there and are either excluded or exclude themselves.
Homeless outreach teams in London failed to move a third of the people they worked with during 2004/05 off the street. Could these people be those who have previously been evicted or who have abandoned their tenancy and how can this figure be reduced?
Some of these people could well have previously had and lost accommodation. Others will be long-term entrenched rough sleepers who don’t want to access accommodation or who have high support needs that make it difficult to find them appropriate accommodation. As mentioned the figure could be reduced by having a wider variety of specialist accommodation available for those with high level support needs; having a wider range of quality accommodation available that may entice people off the streets (e.g. they won’t be afraid of other residents, rules, environment etc); having more staff funded to do outreach work who have time to search out and work intensively with long-term rough sleepers.