How Birmingham is tackling the homelessness crisis
Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet adviser for homelessness, outlines the measures being taken to tackle the homelessness crisis.
With unseasonably cold weather affecting much of Birmingham recently, increasing numbers of rough sleepers have been on the frontline facing the freezing temperatures.
Since 2010, rough sleeping has increased by 169% nationally and is a major issue in Birmingham. With challenging times ahead of us with the roll out of Universal Credit, the Homelessness Reduction Act and changes to supported housing, they also give us opportunities to make an impact on preventing homelessness and supporting vulnerable citizens.
We are inputting into national and regional initiatives to help shape the national picture to reflect the needs of Birmingham.
Encouragingly, 2017 figures are showing that these coordinated interventions made through partnership programmes and action taken by the Council are making an impact.
The work achieved by the Homelessness Partnership Board is one of the key reasons for this change. Established by the Council last year, with over 30 individuals from across different sectors, the board is responsible for implementing Birmingham’s newly approved Homelessness Prevention Strategy and driving a coordinated system of change for homelessness.
The Homelessness Prevention Strategy seeks to tackle and prevent homelessness at the earliest opportunity. Signed off by every cabinet member, it is recognised that homelessness is not just an issue for Housing and Health.
Homelessness in Birmingham is a priority and one which has seen the Council facing a big culture change in its approach. Part of this includes enacting the following projects that have been specifically created to help tackle the issue:
- A Corporate Directorate Board has been created to ensure the entire council considers and prioritises homelessness.
- We have established a multi-agency co located Street Intervention Team to respond to rough sleeping and associated activity.
- We have taken the lead on developing the regional bid for Housing First pilot in the West.
- The leader of the council, cabinet members for homes and housing, community safety and equalities and the ambassador for addressing homelessness, have all written to the Chancellor to raise concerns about the issues surrounding Universal Credit and housing allowances.
- In conjunction with West Midlands Combined Authority, we have launched, ‘Change into Action’, an alternative giving scheme which supports specialist charities and Street Link teams that work to change the circumstances of rough sleepers.
For the first time in four years, 2017 figures do not show a sharp increase in the number of rough sleepers. However, to begin the drive towards eliminating homelessness, it needs to remain a primary focus for us at the Council.
I look forward to the challenge of working with our fantastic partners, local groups and volunteers to ensure that all the schemes in place continue to progress to help drive the positive trend we’re seeing that will step-by-step help to eradicate the problem of homelessness in Birmingham.