Rough sleeping in Portsmouth is on the decline, says council

FEWER people are sleeping out on the streets of Portsmouth than they were in 2017, according to council statistics.

Saturday, 2nd February 2019, 9:28 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 10:06 pm
A rough sleeper in Portsmouth. Pitcure: David George

Figures released by Portsmouth City Council show that the official annual count of rough sleepers in the city showed 19 in November 2018, compared to 42 the year before.

The count was verified by a representative from national charity, Homeless Link.

The council has attributed this improvement to two night shelters in the city, which opened in December 2017. These are funded by the council and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's rough sleeper initiative.

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A rough sleeper in Portsmouth. Pitcure: David George

With 45 beds, the council says that 42 were in use on the night of the count last year.

The news comes as a bitter cold snap hits the Solent region, with snowfall reaching Portsmouth yesterday evening.

Cabinet member for housing, Councillor Darren Sanders, said: ‘This shows that the council's night shelters are successful in cutting rough sleeping by offering people somewhere to spend the night.

‘Since May 2018, we've secured £384,000 from the government and we're expecting another £350,000 for 2019/20. This means the shelters open longer and more resources are going into outreach.

‘We're working hard on improving services for people who sleep rough. We've proposed a new strategy, focused on individuals and their own particular needs.

‘We want every rough sleeper to have a housing plan designed to fit them and taking in wider issues as well as a roof over their head. It could cover areas such as employment, mental or physical health, drugs, alcohol or debt – tackling underlying problems that might be barriers to living a settled life.’

The council is also funding a homeless day service, offering showers, laundry facilities, blankets, a clothing store and advice on housing, health and employment.

Bev Saunders, the founder of Helping Hands, runs soup kitchens for rough sleepers in the city.

She explains that while more beds are available overnight, these rough sleepers still have nowhere to go during the day.

Bev believes that the council is doing ‘everything it can’ to help, but doesn’t think this is enough to bring the number of rough sleepers down to zero.

She said: ‘I think the number of people actually sleeping on the streets has gone down, because there are more winter beds available.

‘How long these beds are available for, I do not know – but they’re still back out on the streets during the day.

‘It’s good news that they have a roof over their heads at night though; I can’t say for certain what the answer is, but you can’t just give them a room to stay in and not give them any support – that has happened in the past and it doesn’t work.’