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Not in my town….

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Listening to @HeartGlosNews this morning I heard the story about homelessness in Gloucestershire.

The number quoted in the news bulletin attributed to a report by the organisation Shelter was that 521 people are said to be currently living on the streets or sofa surfing in the city of Gloucester.

This is 2018 in our county and the sad reality for some.

The news made me think of some recent correspondence we’ve had into the @Glos_OPCC around “vagrancy” in Cheltenham.

Whilst the numbers in the town of official homeless is said to be around 9, (2017 figures) those are the official independent numbers of true homeless and don’t take into account those who might be the “professional beggars”.

So what are the police doing about? This was the question posed to the PCC in a recent email from a resident of Cheltenham.  In numerous correspondence that has since followed I have explained what is being done by the police and what is being done collectively by different organisations.  Because it cannot be seen as a police only problem , its a societal issue.

In the last correspondence I tried to summarise the steps that are followed by the police and others, this is what I wrote:

The first steps on working with any person who is homeless, rough sleeping or begging is to engage with them. We would ask them for some details about themselves e.g. how they came to be homeless/rough sleeping/begging, if they are currently with any agencies, if they have support needs and if they need referrals made for assistance.

After this step, partner agencies would seek to support them by making referrals and following these up with the provider. If and only if after a period of time, as well as a number of opportunities to accept the support, the person shows no sign of accepting or engaging with the support, it may be the police or another agency has no option other than to take enforcement action. This would only be done if the person has continued to commit anti-social behaviour. We would not take enforcement action on a person who was genuinely homeless and was not causing anti-social behaviour.

This may be an injunction (granted by the court), this gives conditions of what the person cannot do and may include a condition excluding them from a certain area. However, on injunctions the police and agencies can also request from the court a new positive requirement. This would ensure that the person does begin engaging with the relevant agency who can support them for the original cause of their offending/behaviour, which for some could be substance misuse treatment.

When an area has become an issue due to gathering of homeless / street drinkers and associated anti-social behaviour Dispersal Orders have been granted by the local Inspector to disperse persons. This has been done in conjunction with cleansing of the area by the local council and with support of homeless workers.

The issue is complex. In our county lots of work is being done by lots of people. There are lots of dilemmas should there be lots of carrots or more use of the stick i.e. the enforcement.

Yes for some the sight of beggars and homelessness might be unsightly and not something to be seen in Cheltenham, but it is the reality and the reality is people are trying to tackle it.

In the email into the office which was critical of the police for not doing enough, the resident pointed to the 1824 Vagrancy Act and how the police and the authorities should be using it to prosecute rough sleeps. It made me think of an article I read earlier this year in the New Statesman.

Money is being made available by central government to try and get people off the streets and to prevent homelessness.  Our county is bidding for some of that money.

The lofty ambition is to eradicate homelessness ..

 

****************UPDATE***********************

Yesterday  in this blog I failed to highlight some of the ways the OPCC contributes to the partnership work around homelessness.

Whether its the  co-funded county drug and alcohol service provided by Change Grow Live (CGL) See link below;

https://www.changegrowlive.org/content/cgl-gloucestershire

Or the  coordinated partnership activity in Cheltenham in respect of anti-social-behaviour through Solace (taking an engage, support enforce approach) :

https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/news/article/2103/solace_launches_to_tackle_anti-social_behaviour_across_cheltenham_and_gloucester

For me one of the big things we do is the  financial contribution to the co-funded assertive homelessness outreach service provided by P3:

https://www.p3charity.org/services/gloucestershire-street-outreach

This video is something the OPCC funded to try and make the voices of rough sleepers heard:

(Un)Heard_1.2

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