THE council is seeking to bring together all its services for the homeless into a single support service.
Currently, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s housing-related and homeless services are run by four different providers – with all of the current contracts due to finish at the end of March next year.
On Wednesday the council’s cabinet will be asked to award the homeless support service for the borough to City West Housing Trust (CWHT) of the ForViva Group.
The move aims to ensure the new service is more co-ordinated, efficient and continues to support more of the most vulnerable people.
The recommendations follow more than 18 months of extensive consultation with residents, businesses, homeless people, service providers and the voluntary and community sectors.
The service would retain its commitment that nobody should spend a second night out and will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
CWHT’s proposal will provide a new approach with a number of key benefits:
l A holistic and seamless service, joining up accommodation and support, including a newly commissioned daytime activities service, designed to prevent or reduce homelessness and create more stable and sustainable lifestyles
l A greater range of accommodation, using more dispersed, smaller units, located across the borough and catering for the differing needs of individuals
l Increased direct access provision (emergency beds) in a number of properties across the borough, which will be further increased during severe weather
l More focus on preventative services including hubs across the borough providing advice, information, training and group work
l A ‘Housing First’ approach for some service users – which finds a property first and then places the support around the individual
l Outreach services and a rough sleeper hotline
l A respite and medical facility with clinical support for those who require it.
With the new arrangements in place, Richmond Court, which has 36 accommodation units, would be closed in 2018 and be replaced by smaller dispersed units which will rely on community engagement and maintaining strong relationships with local housing providers and landlords.
The report also recognises the impact the Homelessness Reduction Act, to be introduced next April, will have on the support for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness to prevent them becoming homeless.
Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are committed to reducing levels of homelessness on our borough’s streets and invisible homelessness like sofa surfing and tackling the fundamental causes. The model put forward has been created following extensive consultation and I thank the many people who shared their views and helped shape it.
“Having a stable and affordable home is fundamental to someone’s quality of life. While this is something that many of us take for granted, there are still too many individuals and families who, for a variety of reasons, experience housing difficulties.
“We work closely with our partners and local community and voluntary groups to provide a range of services to support those who find themselves homeless or who need housing-related support but whilst excellent work is being done, homelessness is increasing.
“With more residents being placed in temporary accommodation we have reviewed our approach and shifted our focus to that of prevention. We can link vital services together in a more effective way to support those most vulnerable.”
See full story in the Chester Leader