Fri, 23 Aug 2019
ROUGH sleeping in West Berkshire can be eradicated by the end of next year if one last push is made.
The appeal for agencies to continue their good work of tackling homelessness and rough sleeping was made by the chief officer at Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB), Andrew Sharp.
He said: “Healthwatch West Berkshire, statutory authorities and the voluntary sector can hit our target to end involuntary rough sleeping in West Berkshire by 2020... with a committed final push.”
The call follows HWWB’s Homeless and Rough Sleepers Report 2018, which said there had been an “unprecedented rise” in the number of rough sleepers in the district.
It also leads on from Mr Sharp urging West Berkshire Council to commit to ending rough sleeping in the district by 2020.
However, the councillor for health at the time, Dominic Boeck, was unwilling to commit, saying he was not confident the target could be met.
Mr Sharp said that good work had been done to tackle the issue of rough sleeping and that numbers had reduced.
But “as they fall there’s a tendency to say ‘look how well we’ve done’ and often complex cases are left in the most vulnerable places”.
The call follows the publication of HWWB’s annual report, which highlights the organisation’s work in the community, including rough sleepers, the black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee (BAMER) community, young adults with fibromyalgia and those with living with disabilities.
The report said that local services “do not truly understand the challenges” for homeless people, who find it difficult to access support because they lack a permanent address, phone number or identification.
Acting on this feedback, HWWB has worked to bring health and dental outreach schemes to Newbury Soup Kitchen and Loose Ends.
Mr Sharp said: “What’s really positive is that because there has been so much good joined-up work with everybody, that’s what made it work.”
But he urged all involved to get the job done and that it wasn’t enough to do three-quarters of a task.
“I know we have done really well, but we can make this happen,” he said.
He said that the introduction of Housing First, a scheme which offers tenancies first as part of ongoing support, was making a difference.
HWWB, which received 85 per cent of its funding from West Berkshire Council in 2018/19 and spent £121,412, had to rely on reserves to operate, with an overspend of 3.7 per cent.
HWWB chairman Mike Fereday said: “Looking back over what has been a busy and successful year, I cannot fail to be inspired by the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication shown by our chief officer, members of staff, our volunteers and board members.
“Enabling the patient voice to be heard is what we have done, what we do and will continue to do in the future.
“We have the power to make sure that those in charge of the provision of services hear what people’s experiences are of those services.”
Mr Sharp said the team had made a real impact.
He said: “We went into 2018/19 following a year in which our Homeless And Rough Sleepers Report 2018 had highlighted West Berkshire as an outlier, and I am proud to say that the discrepancies HWWB highlighted and the changes we achieved have made a real difference for this seldom-heard community in our area.”