Council supports website helping homeless people make the right move  

Homeless people in Birmingham are just one click away from connecting with with local landlords thanks to a new website Homeless Rooms Birmingham .

HomelessRooms logoBirmingham City Council is working with the creators of this new scheme in a pilot to help homeless people make the right move into long term accommodation.

The idea for Homeless Rooms Birmingham came from social entrepreneurs Mark Peters and Lee Blake. After speaking to prospective tenants (mostly young people) who were searching to find a place to live in the city, they found that the expensive deposits and high fees charged by some landlords and estate agents were putting accommodation way out of these young people’s reach.

On the Homeless Rooms Birmingham website, people can search for decent quality accommodation, offered by landlords who accept people as tenants without deposits, admin fees or high rents. There is also advice to help prevent a person from becoming homeless, or support a person to move on from a hostel.

Councillor Sharon Thompson, Ambassador for addressing rough sleeping and homelessness at Birmingham City Council, said: “Homeless Rooms Birmingham is an innovative way of helping homeless people make the move into long term accommodation. We are keen to see this scheme for increasing access to supported housing get off the ground, so we are match funding monies that they raise via their Crowdfunding campaign. “

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, added:  “We’ve seen a dramatic rise in homelessness and rough sleeping across the country in recent years and Birmingham is no different. So we’re looking for creative ways to tackle this crisis and we work closely with partners to find solutions to support those at risk.

“Homeless Rooms Birmingham is the latest new initiative, following the recent launch of Change Into Action – an alternative giving scheme created in partnership with the Mayor for the West Midlands. We will also be introducing a Housing First pilot, to offer people entrenched in homelessness permanent homes and help them get their lives back on track. These are all part of our vision to eradicate homelessness in Birmingham.”

Commonwealth Games Federation selects Birmingham as Host City Partner of the 2022 Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) today announced that it has selected Birmingham, England as the host city partner of the XXII Commonwealth Games in 2022.

At a special Media Conference staged at the Arena Academy school in Birmingham, CGF President Louise Martin CBE applauded the city’s ambitious and innovative vision to engage and benefit its local community, showcase the best of global Britain and warmly welcome and inspire athletes and fans from right across the Commonwealth.

Birmingham 2022, which is expected to take place from 27 July – 7 August 2022, marks 20 years since Manchester 2002, the last time the Games were held in England.

CGF President Louise Martin CBE said: “We warmly congratulate Birmingham and England on today’s announcement – it is a defining moment for this truly Commonwealth city. With its rich history, cultural diversity, youthful dynamism and ambitious spirit, Birmingham embodies all that we cherish about the Commonwealth, and so the Commonwealth Sports Movement looks forward to collaborating with all the Games partners to showcase the city’s humanity and pride to a global audience over the coming months and years.

“The vast majority of the Games venues are in place, and with extensive experience in the UK of hosting successful major events – including Manchester 2002, London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 – the CGF looks forward to a truly spectacular Games that delivers not only for the 2.4 billion citizens across the Commonwealth but the wider world, too. Today is a fantastic day for Birmingham, global Britain and our resurgent Commonwealth Sports Movement.”

The CGF President also thanked Canada, Malaysia and Australia for the continued interest expressed in hosting a future Commonwealth Games, and confirmed that the Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) in these countries have signalled their potential hosting interest in either 2026 or 2030.

The final, complete Birmingham 2022 bid documentation was submitted by Commonwealth Games England (CGE), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on behalf of the UK Government, and Birmingham City Council, supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The foundations for the Games have now been laid, with the official handover to Birmingham set to take place at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony on April 15 next year.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said: “Birmingham will put on a fantastic Commonwealth Games in 2022 and I am delighted that the Commonwealth Games Federation has awarded us the right to host what will be a sporting spectacular. The Games will also give us a chance to show the best of Britain to the world, give great opportunities to the people and businesses of the West Midlands and beyond while inspiring many to get involved in sport. I look forward to working with the Commonwealth Games Federation, Commonwealth Games England and Birmingham City Council over the coming years as we prepare for 2022.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said: “The UK has a brilliant track record for putting on the biggest sport events in the world and it is great news that Birmingham has been selected to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. I am sure that we will put on an event that will make the country proud, leave a strong sporting legacy and strengthen relationships with our friends across the Commonwealth.”

Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council and Chair of the Bid Team, said: “This is a wonderful way to end the year and celebrate the festive season – with an early Christmas present for the city! At the start of 2017 we were looking into the feasibility of hosting the Games in 2026, but when 2022 became a possibility in April, we made the decision to back ourselves even though we knew that we would need to do a lot of work in a short time frame. That work and belief has been rewarded.

“This has been a team effort and the Bid Team would like to thank everyone who has contributed. We have had excellent support from residents and businesses in the city; our regional partners including Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Midlands Engine, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the NEC Group, and the University of Birmingham; as well as venues, sport and cultural organisations across the Midlands. We have also enjoyed a close working relationship with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Commonwealth Games Federation and Commonwealth Games England.

“The hard work begins now and we all have just four-and-a-half years to deliver an unforgettable Games that will shape the future of our city, our region and our people. Thank you for backing Birmingham’s bid.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The success of this bid has depended entirely on the whole of the West Midlands region getting behind it and recognising the benefits it will bring. The Games will provide the opportunity to not only see world-class sport but bring economic and social benefits.

“Above all, this will be our opportunity, along with the Coventry City of Culture the year prior to the Games, to showcase a resurgent, diverse and confident West Midlands to the world.”

Ian Metcalfe, Chair of Commonwealth Games England, added: “I am delighted that the Commonwealth Games Federation has awarded the 2022 Games to England and to Birmingham. In particular I am excited for all the Team England athletes who will have the immense privilege of competing at a home Games, backed by many thousands of proud England fans.

“England has a proud tradition of welcoming the world to our country and creating fantastic sports events, culture and the warmest of welcomes for the entire Commonwealth movement. We cannot wait to welcome the Commonwealth once again in 2022.

“Being awarded the Games is clearly just the start of a very long journey. We look forward to partnering with the Commonwealth Games Federation, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region to deliver the best Commonwealth Games that anyone can remember.”

Today’s announcement by the CGF follows the Gold Coast 2018 Coordination Commission taking place earlier this month in Australia. Gold Coast 2018 organisers have committed to share all their experience and advice with Birmingham, passing on the baton and putting the city in the strongest position to deliver an inspiring, impactful and successful Games.

The Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee will also be the first to benefit from the new CGF Partnerships delivery model – as the CGF takes an increasingly active and direct role in the delivery of the Games through the creation of an integrated delivery team, working in close partnership with the host city and CGA. This will help to deliver the Games more efficiently and economically, and create a strong legacy for future hosts.

Gold Coast 2018 Chairman, Peter Beattie AC said: “The Games in Glasgow in 2014 set the benchmark very high and delivered an exceptional experience for athletes and spectators and I am confident that Gold Coast 2018 will be another outstanding Games.

“There have been many lessons learned on the journey towards 2018 with more to come as we move into Games time.

“We are very keen to transfer as much of our knowledge as possible to enable the new host city to develop a robust Games business plan early in the establishment of the organising committee so they can literally hit the ground running when we hand over the flag at the GC2018 Closing Ceremony.”

Homelessness: We need more national action to tackle this growing crisis

I spent some time with Birmingham’s Street Intervention Team earlier this week to learn more about the work they do and the challenges they face.

Established earlier this year, this multi-agency team is taking a co-ordinated approach to tackling rough sleeping – a growing national problem that a committee of MPs (the cross-party Public Accounts Committee) has labelled a ‘national crisis’.

As we saw with the tragic death of Paul Williams on our city streets last weekend, the rising number of people sleeping rough across the country are extremely vulnerable. Shockingly homeless people are more likely to die young, with an average age of death of just 47 years old.

In one of the richest economies in the world, that’s a disgraceful statistic and in far too many cases, street sleepers are the victims of austerity and huge cuts to public spending. The time has come for government action.

What struck me as I spent time with the Street Intervention Team was that varied nature of the work. I heard about help for people with addictions, the tracking of individuals across the city centre, the work undertaken to identify accommodation and the help offered to deal with mental health issues.

The team uses real-time data and information to deal with problems as quickly as possible and has established a real network of intelligence and co-ordinated support.

The most recent statistics available (for October) show that they moved 31 people into accommodation that month, encouraged 21 people to attend a substance misuse clinic and delivered 213 health interventions.

Behind those figures we find human and often very moving stories that underline the vital importance of work carried out by the team.

I heard about the woman who had been sleeping rough on and off for 10 years and had become increasingly worried about her safety on the streets. She also expressed concerns about being indoors and the team had to take a softly-softly approach, meeting her on a daily basis to gain her trust, find out what she wanted and help her to make that first step.  She eventually moved into accommodation in early September and the team continued to work with her (at her own pace) coming up with an effective plan.

The team’s willingness to understand there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution is clearly key to working with and understanding the vulnerable people tragically sleeping on our streets.

The statistics above are heartbreaking and the people who make up those statistics have a right to dignity and compassion. No two cases will be exactly the same and the partners on the Street Intervention Team clearly understand that, tailoring their approach to suit individual needs.

Birmingham is not unique. Nationally the number of rough sleepers has soared from 1,768 to 4,134 since 2010. That’s a 134 per cent increase at a time when the safety net for the most vulnerable people has been significantly damaged by austerity-driven cuts.

And rough sleeping is just the very visible tip of the iceberg.

A damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that there had been a 60 per cent rise in households in temporary accommodation over the last six years, affecting 120,540 children.

Government measures are believed to have exacerbated the problem, with the report stating that local housing allowance reforms are ‘likely to have contributed’.

Then of course we have the botched roll-out of Universal Credit that many fear will further exacerbate the problem. Various cabinet members and our ambassador for addressing rough sleeping and homelessness Cllr Sharon Thompson have written several urgent letters to the government in recent months warning the roll-out will  put more people at risk of homelessness.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey perfectly summed-up the situation when he said: “This is a direct result of decisions made by Tory ministers… a drop in affordable homes, cuts to housing benefits and no help for renters.”

Now you might expect an opposition spokesman to make such a point, but reflecting on the growing crisis, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee report was also damning, labelling the government’s attitude to tackling homelessness as ‘unacceptably complacent’.

MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee said the Homelessness Reduction Act announced in October would ”no doubt help”, but that it cannot be successful unless it is matched by a renewed focus across government on tackling both the supply and affordability of decent housing.

In Birmingham we’ve built more homes since 2012 than any other council in Britain, while Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is seen as a trailblazer for other local authorities.

But the extra homes needed for our growing population will not simply appear overnight, so in the meantime, the fantastic work carried out by the partner organisations of our Street Intervention Team is desperately needed.

In an ideal world we wouldn’t need the team; we wouldn’t need the growing army of compassionate volunteers who work tirelessly to help feed and clothe the homeless in England; we wouldn’t need the food banks that for many families are the difference between managing and going hungry.

Sadly all those interventions are absolutely essential in 2017 because too many people are being let down by a failing government, meaning local government and others must pick up the pieces.