Partners in Rother are working together to help those sleeping rough this winter – as new figures show an alarming increase in those living on the streets.
The number of rough sleepers estimated to be sleeping rough on a typical night in the district has doubled in the past year while homelessness applications to Rother District Council are on course to have almost tripled in four years.
The multi-agency Rother Local Strategic Partnership (LSP), working to improve the quality of life for people in the district, says more is being done to help those who find themselves on the streets.
Initiatives include an outreach service for rough sleepers run by the Seaview Project and a ‘safe space’ run once a week at St Barnabus Church, Bexhill, which offers breakfast, pastoral support and referral to health, housing and social care services to those on the streets .
The latter project is run by the Homelessness Unity Group (HUG) – formed by local churches and community groups – which is appealing for volunteers to help out at the centre and to staff a planned new severe weather shelter at the church.
Martin Fisher, chief executive of Rother Voluntary Action, is the chairman of the LSP, which is made of representatives from local councils, emergency services, the NHS and education and voluntary sectors.
He said: “While Rother may have lower levels of homelessness and rough sleeping than other neighbouring areas, it’s clear this is a growing problem which is being tackled through a multi-agency and community response.
“Rough sleepers often have long-standing and complex issues and working together means we can not only keep them out of the cold in severe weather but direct them to other services which may help them.
“All the partners are working together and taking a co-ordinated response to tackle this issue so we can do everything possible to give rough sleepers the support they need.”
At the most recent count, carried out last month, there were eight people sleeping rough in Rother – up from four a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of people presenting as homeless has increased from 112 four years ago to 216 last year and looks set to near the 300 mark by the end of this financial year.
Rother District Council has a new dedicated rough sleeping officer while its housing service provides support and advice, temporary accommodation to the most vulnerable and loans for deposits and rent in advance to prevent people becoming homeless.
The council is a partner to a successful bid by Hastings and Eastbourne borough councils for £664,000 Government funding to reduce rough sleeping, meaning people with a Rother connection can access shelter and one-on-one support from a range of specialist professionals through the scheme.
Meanwhile, B&B accommodation is provided to rough sleepers in Rother when severe weather is forecast, while overnight accommodation can also be provided at the Hastings-based Snowflake Night Shelter network.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the Homelessness Unity Group at its safe space in Bexhill is asked to contact Father Richard Tuset by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, the group is also looking for donations to help carry out its vital work, which can be made via The Pelham, in Holliers Hill, Bexhill. More information is available by emailing email@example.com.