Rates of rough sleeping in Birmingham on the rise again despite governments “Everyone In” campaign

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Strategic Lead for Rough Sleepers at Birmingham City Council Stephen Philpott has warned that, despite the success of the “Everyone In” campaign, more support is needed to ensure levels of rough sleeping in Birmingham do not exceed pre-pandemic levels.  

There were 60 people sleeping rough in Birmingham last month according to Birmingham City Council; a 15% increase compared to 2019.

This is despite the success of the government’s “Everyone In” scheme, launched in March, in which councils across the country were given £3.2m to move rough sleepers into emergency accommodation to limit the spread of the coronavirus.  

The scheme helped to house around 5,400 people nationally, with Birmingham City Council able to move 77 rough sleepers into hotels during the first national lockdown.

A national study published in medical journal The Lancet estimates that the scheme may have saved a total of 266 lives.

*While the figure released by the ONS is likely to be lower than 60, the “one night” snapshot has been heavily criticised for under-estimating rates of rough sleeping

However, of these 77, only a third have received offers of permanent accommodation from Birmingham City Council.

“We can’t just continue to house people forever, we don’t have the funds”, said Mr Stephen Philpott, Strategic Lead for Rough Sleepers at Birmingham City Council.

Mr Philpott expressed concern that the economic “fallout” of the pandemic could leave many people homeless in the coming year if more resources are not made available.

“As evictions take place and jobs are lost, we do fear for the next stage… If you want to see what the future looks like, and whether it is going to be a sustainable future, you have to look under the bonnet” [and these figures]tell a “wider and more troubling story.”

There are currently 3500 households in temporary accommodation in Birmingham.

The council is also accommodating 62 people who have no recourse to public funds and are thus not entitled to state support.

The government’s recent ruling that rough sleeping is now grounds for deportation means that many of these people face an uncertain future should they fail to secure permanent residency.

According to homelessness charity Crisis:

“Local authorities are still taking homelessness applications as normal, and it is reasonable to suggest there may be an increase in new cases given the financial impact of the pandemic.”

Heartlands Hostel in Birmingham (Credit: Google) – Birmingham families face longer waiting times in temporary accommodation than the rest of the country – the average time spent in temporary accommodation in Birmingham is about a year compared to the national average of under 6 months.

A study by the Local Government Association revealed that while many councils had “significant success” with the “Everyone In” cohort, this was a “one-off exercise” and not enough to “maintain long term reductions in rough sleeping.”

“Whilst there was enthusiasm for maintaining a more proactive approach to accommodating rough sleepers and those at risk, the resources were not there in most councils to be able to achieve this.”

The Local Government Association believe the success of the Everyone In campaign has shown that, “given the mandate and funding”, councils have the means to end the vast majority of rough sleeping.”

“I’ve probably had three times as much money operationally this year which I probably won’t have next year”, said Mr Philpott.

With increased government support, “we can keep doing what we’re doing at the moment”.

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Multiplatform journalist covering crime, education, health and politics in Birmingham

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