GROUPS which are fighting to stop rough sleeping across the county have been given a £950,000 cash boost.

The sum has been allocated to Colchester, Southend and Basildon councils from the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative fund.

The £30 million pot was divvied up across 83 UK authorities with Colchester receiving £192,683.

With these interventions Colchester Council anticipates more than halving the number of street homeless people to about 11 or 12.

Tina Bourne, portfolio holder for housing and communities, said: "I'm delighted the Government is stumping up the cash in addition to the funding we've received over the last couple of years for homelessness prevention and appointing a rough sleeper coordinator.

"This amount will really enable us to extend what we're doing now and be much more assertive in our approach."

As part of the council's four key focuses, it will pilot a Housing First programme in Colchester for the first time.

A small number of rough sleepers will receive person-centered help in supported accommodation with a day and night worker.


Councillor Bourne cuts the ribbon to reopen Enoch House, Greenstead

She said: "We know housing without support isn't enough so this is for those local people that need 24/7 support then that will be available."

She added: "The council already does some outreach but we recognise there isn't enough capacity for out-of-hours provision.

"Through that we want to reconnect rough sleepers with the areas they're from, or their family connections."

Across the county, the cash will provide more than 500 new staff including outreach workers, specialist mental health and substance misuse workers, and dedicated coordinators.

It will also provide for more than 1,700 new bed spaces including both emergency and settled accommodation.

Colchester intends to create a specialist mental health post as well as increase bed spaces and support staff at Colchester Night Shelter in order to "stop the cycle of homelessness before it even starts".

"And we can't do that if the Night Shelter is full," Ms Bourne added.


Marina Woodrow, manager at the shelter

Its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) will also be extended to run between mid-October to mid-March the following year.

The next stage is to create a strategy and communicate this to the council's partners.

MP Will Quince said: “I’m really pleased to see Colchester is to receive this money to support those sleeping rough, and those at risk of sleeping rough.

“One person sleeping rough in Colchester is one person too many, so I welcome this government funding.”

Vivienne Wiggins, chief executive of homeless charity Beacon House Ministries, labelled the boost “excellent”.

She said: “There does need to be some emergency bed spaces for people but then we also have to start looking at where they go when the emergency is over.

“It brings us back to a report released by Crisis this week which recommended the Government should be building around 100,000 new social homes each year.”


A man sleeps in Colchester High Street

Mrs Wiggins also wants to see a caring approach for rough sleepers with nowhere to go, and more information sharing to identify fraudulent street beggars.

She said: “I would hope to see a more joined up practice around rough sleeping, especially the ones who are most visible.

“By the money going to the council rather than charities, it has more strength to coordinate efforts to help sort people into accommodation.

“The challenge is, as with most towns, there’s a great percentage of street begging and trying to identify who’s who is quite a complex process.”

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for ministry of housing, communities and local government, made the funding announcement this week.

The Conservative politician said: “It will be followed by a cross-government strategy, published in July, which will set out how we intend to meet the manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022, and eliminating it altogether by 2027.”