'Valuable' new library worker to support rough sleepers in Portsmouth

A NEW city library worker will act as a 'valuable' support service for rough sleepers as demand is expected to rise during the cold weather.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 12:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 2:12 pm

Portsmouth City Council is recruiting for a position based in the central library, in Guildhall Walk, that will 'signpost' homeless and vulnerable people to the appropriate help available.

A council spokesman said: 'There are other support services in the city but libraries continue - as they have always been - to be a place where homeless and rough sleepers may gather.

'Numbers inevitably rise during winter as the weather becomes colder and it is the intention of the library service to work positively with this group.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Portsmouth has double the amount of rough sleepers than the average in England

'The role will also deliver training and support to library staff and wider Portsmouth City Council workforce who may be likely to come into contact with homeless people so they in turn are enabled to provide advice, guidance and support.'

Data from Public Health England this year showed that in Portsmouth there are 5.6 homeless people per 1,000 of the population, more than double the 2.5 per 1,000 in England.

For Mike Morell, manager of homeless support centre and kitchen LifeHouse, the library setting would encourage more vulnerable people to find help. He said: 'Obviously homelessness is a severe problem in Portsmouth. Something like this could be really valuable.

'Going to the council can be a bit scary for people. It will be good for them to talk to someone in a neutral environment, where they're comfortable.

Mike Morrell from the LifeHouse believes the new support worker could be a real help. Pictured is: Mike Morell, manager and chair of trustees and Kelly Paine, catering volunteer. Picture: Sarah Standing (051219-2943)

'Whatever the homelessness figures are you always need to add 30 per cent for the people who don't want to be found.'

Chief executive of homelessness charity the Society of James, Trevor Pickup, added: 'We are very aware homeless people use the library as somewhere warm to spend their days.

'It's a good opportunity to engage with people. People will have heard of hostels but there are other services and other teams out there that might be able to help.'

The role, which is due to be in place in January, will run for a one-year pilot with funding already secured from government

Portsmouth council also funds a range of services for homeless people in the city, including a day centre and night-time accommodation.