Homelessness has a broad meaning; it can be used for people living in homes that are unsuitable, as well as for people who are sleeping rough. Homelessness means not having a home. A home is a place that provides security, and links to a community and support network. It needs to be decent and affordable. Under the law, even if someone has a roof over their head they can still be homeless. This is because they may not have the right to stay where they live or their home may be unsuitable to live in. Rough sleeping on the other hand,is defined by the Government as ‘people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, or in doorways, parks or bus shelters); people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or ‘bashes’). Street homelessness is a much wider term than rough sleeping, taking into accounts the street lifestyles of some people who may not actually sleep on the streets. Street homeless people are those who routinely find themselves on the streets during the day with nowhere to go at night. Some will end up sleeping outside, or in a derelict or other building not designed for human habitation, perhaps for long periods. Others will sleep at a friend’s for a very short time, or stay in a hostel, night-shelter or squat, or spend nights in prison or hospital.
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The Government has achieved its target of reducing the number of people sleeping rough by two thirds. In many parts of the country there are outreach teams to help those on the streets, hostels providing the first step off the streets, as well as day centres and other agencies offering training and support to access employment and cultural projects. However, still too many people are not receiving the help they need, at the time they need it, and end up sleeping rough on the streets. Although the reasons for becoming homeless differ between each person, there are common factors. Some are personal; related to the family, community and individual, and others are structural; relating to the economy, the law, social trends, and the national housing system. Homelessness is likely to be caused by a combination of structural and personal factors. There are, however risk factors which make it more likely that a person could become street homeless. These include:
- family conflict and/or relationship breakdown between partners
- leaving institutions
- mental health problems
- substance misuse
- dual diagnosis (mental health problem/s combined with substance misuse)
- financial problems
- having ‘no recourse to public funds’ (eg no social security)
- refugees or people seeking asylum
Nottingham and Rough Sleepers: Fact and Figures
Rough sleeper characteristics*
Number in brackets relates to % in year (2017)
*percentages may not add up to 100 due to ‘unknown’ characteristics recorded in a small number of cases.
NB. Characteristics have not been compared with other authorities due to low numbers involved in many cases, often resulting in extreme percentages.
The latest official estimate of rough sleeping in Nottingham reported 34 rough sleepers. This is a decrease of 21% on the figure reported in autumn 2017, and the lowest estimate since 2015. The rate of decrease is higher than that of the East Midlands Region, which was 14%. Across the rest of Nottinghamshire rough sleeping rose marginally by 2% (1 individual). While the decrease in rough sleeping is good news, the rough sleeping rate per 1,000 households is 2.6; higher than that of England at 2.0 and England without London at 1.7 indicating a higher that average concentration.
The decrease in rough sleeping in Nottingham now means that 1% of rough sleepers in the country (excluding London) are in Nottingham, falling from 1.2% in 2017. However, of the eight English core cities, only three achieved a reduction in the estimated number of rough sleepers compared to the previous year. Behind Liverpool, who achieved a reduction of 55%, Nottingham achieved the second highest reduction of the core cities. Of the 3 cities within the East Midlands region (Derby, Nottingham and Leicester), Nottingham experienced the second highest reduction in the estimated number of rough sleepers, behind Derby at 30%. Leicester saw no change in its number therefore none of the East Midlands cities saw an increase from 2017. Both Derby and Leicester have a ‘per 1,000 households’ rate of 2.5 which is very similar to that of Nottingham at 2.6.
Elsewhere in the county, Bassetlaw was the only area to experience a decrease in rough sleeping, from a count of 9 in 2017 to 2 in 2018. Mansfield Broxtowe, Newark & Sherwood and Bassetlaw all experienced rises, although at 48 the number of rough sleepers counted within this large area is comparatively low. Only Mansfield and Bassetlaw have higher ‘per 1,000 households’ rates than Nottingham.
When compared regionally and nationally (with and without London) Nottingham has a larger proportion of rough sleepers who are UK Nationals, jumping from 68% of rough sleepers in 2017 to 85% in 2018. The levels remained fairly static for the rest of the country, both including exclusion London and the region. Less prominently Nottingham saw a small reduction in the proportion of rough sleepers who were female (from 16% to 12%) as did the region (15% to 13%) while the rest of the country remained static in this respect.
Government policies on street homelessness
Since the 1990s, successive governments have attempted to combat rough sleeping. Key developments in policies around street homelessness over this period are outlined below.
Rough Sleeping Initiative
In response to the increased visibility of rough sleeping in late 1980s, the Government launched the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) in 1990. The RSI operated in central London from 1990 to 1999 and was extended to 36 other areas in England in 1997. The programme funded outreach work, hostel places, move-on accommodation and resettlement services.
Rough Sleepers’ Unit (Homelessness and Housing Support Directorate)
In 1999, the Rough Sleepers’ Unit was established to carry out the Government’s strategy to reduce the number of people sleeping rough by two-thirds by 2002. This target was achieved and the unit, now called the Homelessness and Housing Support Directorate within the Department for Communities and Local Government, continues to lead on homelessness issues.
Contact and Assessment Teams
The Rough Sleepers’ Unit set up 22 Contact and Assessment Teams (CATs) around the country. Seven of these were assigned to London. The CATs comprise of mental health and substance misuse workers, generic street workers, and youth and resettlement workers. In certain local authorities the remit of outreach teams has widened. For example, in the London borough of Camden, the CAT deals with issues such as begging and street drinking, as well as rough sleeping.
Homelessness Act 2002
During 2002 the homelessness legislation was amended to extend the groups of people who are considered to be in priority need for rehousing. This includes several groups who are over-represented in the street homeless population. These new groups include young people between 16 and 17 years old, care leavers aged 18, 19 and 20, and people who are vulnerable as a result of being in prison, in the armed forces and those who are vulnerable as a result of fleeing violence.
Hostels’ improvements and performance indicator
In March 2005, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister launched its five-year homelessness strategy. One aim of the strategy is to help more people to move out of rough sleeping. To help deliver this, the Government is investing £90 million in the Hostels Capital Improvements’ Programme which will seek to improve the physical standards of hostels, and also ensure that services offered respond to current needs.
Nottingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2019 – 2020
This strategy recognizes that individuals and families have a wide range of different reasons and causes for their homelessness, determined by a complex mix of societal, circumstantial and personal factors that all interconnect and are not easily separated. It is clear therefore, that the loss of housing alone does not cause homelessness and neither will the provision of shelter alone resolve homelessness. Therefore, the housing sector should not have to work in isolation to try to prevent or respond to homelessness. Preventing and tackling homelessness is considered everyone’s business in Nottingham and this strategy has been developed to identify and enhance the partnerships, resources, delivery mechanisms and provision necessary to maximize people’s ability to achieve a sustainable positive future in a place they can call home.
The aim of the strategy is to achieve:
- A reduction in the number of households ever becoming homeless
Evidenced through a decrease in the amount of households approaching the local authority (or partner agencies) for support in crisis, once homelessness has already happened
- A reduction in the number of households who become homeless more than once
Evidenced through fewer people re-approaching the local authority (or partner agencies) following rehousing
- A reduction in the number of households living in temporary accommodation
Evidenced through the minimized use of Bed & Breakfast to a target of zero by December 2024 and to be retained at that level thereafter
- A reduction in the number of rough sleepers
Evidenced through a decrease in the number of individuals identified as rough sleepers by the Street Outreach Team
Multi-agency partnerships involving the public, community, voluntary, faith and private sectors are a critical element of the Nottingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy. The approach emphasized throughout is one where all sectors do our bit to help individuals, couples and families address all of their support and social needs and become able to sustain accommodation in the longer term.
The image below shows the sectors with roles and responsibilities in homelessness prevention and relief and who, when connected together are able to successfully deliver the coordinated implementation of this strategy.
Partners in Nottingham agreed that a Nottingham Homelessness Prevention Charter should accompany this Homelessness Prevention Strategy. The Charter outlines the vision for the city alongside a series of values, which all partners are signed up to, solidifying the undertaking to work collaboratively to prevent, relieve and respond to homelessness in Nottingham. The Charter requires organizations and community groups to make their own strategic commitment to homelessness prevention in the form of a pledge (or a number of pledges). Each focused pledge will outline how that organization or service area specifically intends to prioritize homelessness prevention and how they will continue to input and engage with the citywide partnership on an ongoing basis.
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To ensure that the new strategy recognizes and maximizes partner’s contributions and receives the operational involvement required from all sectors to deliver this strategy, partners have outlined their own actions to lead on. These actions will be reviewed by the Strategy Implementation Group and combined with core overarching / multi-sector actions to form the comprehensive annual strategy action plan.
- Alcohol Concern, Street Drinking, Factsheet 19.
- Anderson, I, et al, Single Homeless People, HMSO, 1993.
- Baker, O, Rough and Tumble: The Experiences of Rough Sleepers on England’s Streets, Vision 21, 2001.
- Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), Rough Sleeping Report for London 2004/05, 2005.
- Danczuk, S, Walk on by…: Beggin , street drinking and the giving age, Crisis, 2000.
- Davis, J, Off the Streets: Tackling homelessness among female street-based sex workers, Shelter, 2004.
- Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Homes for Street Homeless People: An Evaluation of the Rough Sleepers Initiative, 1999.
- Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Looking for a change: The role and impact of begging on the lives of people who beg, 2001.
- Gill, B, et al, The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among homeless adults, OPCS, 1996.
- Gunner, G and Knott, H, Homelessness on Civvy Street: Survey of homelessness among ex-servicemen, 1997.
- London Housing Foundation, Survey of Homelessness Sector Services Provided to Asylum Seeker and Refugee Clients: Summary of Findings, 2004.
- London Housing Foundation, Give me shelter: The role of London’s winter shelters for the homeless 2004/05, 2005.
- Nottingham Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2019-2024
- Randall, G and Brown, S, Helping rough sleepers off the streets: A report to the Homelessness Directorate, ODPM, 2002.
- Randall, G and Brown, S, From Street to Home: an evaluation of Phase 2 of the Rough Sleepers Initiative, The Stationery Office, 1996.
- Randall, G, Rough Sleeping: A review of the research, DETR, 1998.
- Rita, D, 2006, Shelter Factsheet, Shelter, 2006
- Warnes, T et al, London’s Hostels for Homeless People in the 21st century, The Pan-London Consortium of Homeless Services Providers, 2004.
- Warnes A et al, Homelessness fact file, Crisis, 2003.
- Wincup, E. et al, Youth homelessness and substance use: report to the drugs and alcohol research unit, Home Office, 2003.
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