Some good news in York homeless report

Image result for homeless images

Despite the COVID crisis, the feared upturn in “rough sleeping” in York has so far not materialised.

A report to a meeting next week says, “As part of the response to COVID-19, the team worked hard to ensure everyone had a place to sleep which was safe and minimised the risk of infection. This included utilising otherwise empty hotel accommodation which was supported by funding from central government. These relationships remain in place and can be utilised if needed as part of our winter response”.  

“Any person sleeping rough is one too many. However, we continue to make great progress in reducing the number of official rough sleepers. The number of rough sleepers at the last official count was 3, down from 7 the previous year”.

Ten emergency beds are available during the current winter period. This is down from last years total of 29 because of the need to maintain social distancing. The Council says it can bring back into use some of its empty property if necessary (Ordnance Lane, Holgate Road, Crombie House etc)

The main groups for whom the Council has provided letting priority are households with children and those with mental health issues. So far this year 39 households have fallen into those categories.

Most homerless presentations result from relations or friends no longer being willing to accommodate the individuals concerned. This has accounted for 302 presentations so far this year.

Other reasons for homelessness included the end of private tenancies (82), relationship breakdown 122), eviction from supported housing (22) and those leaving institutions (38).

The report presents a picture of officials working hard in a difficult area which has been further complicated by COVID.

The report doesn’t comment on the large number of empty council houses and which could contribute to a speedy reduction in the numbers living in temporary accommodation.  It also remains unclear why so many other Council properties, like former care homes, have been left empty for – in some cases – several years.

Still too many empty Council houses in York

Greater problems may be on the horizon. Higher unemployment and the end to protection from eviction for private sector tenants could see a significant increase in homelessness in the City.

In some estates an increase in Anti Social Behaviour could eventually lead to increased evictions with an unknown “knock on” effect.

So still a lot to do to get all aspects of the City’s  housing services back to an acceptable standard.

Only 2 rough sleepers in York

The report into homelessness in York – which slightly mysteriously disappeared from a recent meeting agenda – has finally been published.

The report covers the last financial year. It reveals that the number of rough sleepers had reduced from 9 to 7 when the annual census was completed last November. However, the new COVID measures meant that that number had reduced further  to 2 by the end of March.

Housing performance and demands stats

The number of households leaving in temporary accommodation also reduced from 66 to 62 while none had been accommodated in Bed and Breakfast accommodation for over 6 weeks.  The numbers presenting to the Council as homeless increased from 61 to 99.

There were 1597 households on the housing waiting list at the end of the year. The numbers have remained static for several years.

A copy of the full report can be read by clicking here

It markedly fails to mention the number of empty Council properties in the City or what is being done to reduce void times.  286 homes became available for re-letting last year compared to 284 the previous year.

The number of new build affordable houses also increased (see table)

Homelessness is likely to increase in the City as unemployment increases in the wake of the health crisis. This may be exacerbated as the rent freeze also comes to an end.

Homeless problems – still too many long term empty Council houses in York

The was some surprise a few days ago when a scheduled report on homeless problems in the City was pulled.

The Council failed to explain why the report was abandoned and it remains unclear what the report contained.

It may be that the Council is embarrassed by the seeming increase in the number of empty homes that it owns.

Two on Foxwood Lane have been empty for over 6 months (i.e. from before the pandemic caused delays) . Both properties are bungalows which are always popular with “downsizers”, so finding new tenants shouldn’t have been a problem.

On the basis of the last published stats, there were 22 homeless households with dependent children in living in temporary accommodation in York.

According to the Councils own figures, the average number of days to re-let empty properties has risen from 27 days to 37 days during the last couple of years.

There are 1597 people registered on the York housing waiting list.

Coronavirus York updates; 26th April 2020

Consumer spending

Tortoise have updated their consumer spending tables. They are now live here  CLICK They reveal that York’s retail sector has been badly affected by the Coronavirus clampdown. The City is the 19th worst affected of 172 areas surveyed antionally. Scarborough (14th) and Whitby (7th)  are also badly affected.

The York Council’s Executive will be meeting shortly. We would expect to see them discussing a first draft of an economic recovery plan for the City.

Coronavirus deaths

THREE more people with coronavirus have died at hospitals within the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The three further deaths brings the total for the trust to 104. The figure passed 100 for the first time yesterday when it stood at 101. The trust includes York Hospital and Scarborough.

Testing centre opens at Poppleton

A drive through coronavirus test centre opens in York today. The facility at Poppleton Park and Ride is open for NHS and other key workers on ly, and they’ll need to make an appointment.

Zoom warning

The police have issued the following warning for “Zoom” users.

As I am sure you are all aware, the use of the Zoom application has dramatically risen over the past few weeks with people using it to keep in touch, whether this be for business or social purposes.  However, Zoom is faced some scrutiny due to how insecure it is from a cyber and online perspective, leaving individuals and businesses vulnerable to online cyber attacks.  In response to this, the National Police Chiefs Council has issued some guidance around its use, which I have attached to this email

How Age UK York are supporting residents, with the help of council volunteers

To help relieve pressure on emergency services, volunteers from the council together with Age UK York are driving discharged hospital patients home.

To help relieve pressure on the emergency services, 25 volunteers from the council’s pool of volunteers who matched Age UK York’s criteria have been deployed to join the charity’s Home from Hospital service and their existing two volunteer drivers.

Suitably experienced volunteers with no underlying health conditions and who aren’t medically-shielding, can opt to transport patients who have had Covid-19. They will use personal protection equipment (PPE) and extra hygiene measures which follow Government guidelines. This includes drivers using 1,800 disposable plastic car seat covers kindly donated by garages:

  • Stoneacre Ford York
  • Vantage Toyota York
  • Butts of Bawtry
  • Fulford Auto Services

Another example of the city coming together. Find out more in this press release

Council bring public meetings online in response to extended lockdown

City of York Council will host the next Executive meeting online on 7 May 2020 (The agenda will be published on 29 April). Members of the public who want to speak at meetings will be encouraged to contact the Council’s Democratic Services Team, as usual, and register to speak.  Those who register to speak will then be provided further details on how they can dial into the public meeting and contribute.

Homelessness and housing update

 We are providing accommodation for all homeless households and individuals in the city now and will continue to do so beyond this emergency, as we normally do.

 In addition to using our own and partners’ hostel accommodation, we are currently supporting around 35 homeless households – a mix of families, couples and single people – in self-contained bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation offered to us during the emergency.

 Depending on each individual’s level of need, single people or rough sleepers are housed in a mix of existing hostels and bed and breakfasts, and in hotel rooms – all in single rooms to allow social distancing and self-isolation.

 All the rough sleepers we are supporting are already known to us and the vast majority have accepted the accommodation which each and every one is being offered. We continue to remind them of the lockdown’s requirements, and work hard to persuade them all to come into and stay in their accommodation.

 Rough Sleeper services are operating in the usual way. For a bed, please go to 63, Lawrence Street or call 01904 416562 or at evenings or weekends please call 01609 780780.

 We are continuing with our services for people who are concerned about becoming homeless and need our advice to help prevent homelessness. This is being done online or by phone on 01904 554500 or via www.york.gov.uk/homelessness/housing-options. These teams continue to help people facing homelessness through, for example, financial hardship, relationship breakdown or issues with private landlords. We’re also working with landlords across the city to support their tenants and minimise evictions. We’ve seen a slight rise in single people asking our preventative services for help which may be because they usually live with friends or family who now need to self-isolate.

 We’re prioritising our work to prepare empty council homes ready to re-let and are finding private rented accommodation harder to come by at the moment. We plan to continue working with hotels and B&Bs for the duration of the lockdown to keep people safely accommodated and we are working on plans to ensure that as we move out of lockdown everyone will have accommodation options. 

Where individuals do become homeless and sleep on the streets, we continue to offer tailored support. Whether it’s mental health support, dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, relationship breakdown or poverty, we try and help each individual into suitable accommodation and services. Once they start working with us and our partners in the city – like Changing Lives or the Salvation Army – we can address each person’s needs including getting benefits in place, training for work, money and tenancy management, before helping them into stable accommodation.

 While we carry on with this work, we’ve had to be increasingly innovative about safely supporting rough sleepers – especially those with more complex needs or challenging behaviours – while also maintaining social distancing for other clients and our staff. Like all other services, we’re doing more by phone and are prioritising emergencies. With York CVS we are signposting the charities we work with, including SASH, Carecent and Changing Lives, to apply for additional funding for voluntary groups.

Coronavirus York updates – 10th April 2020

Food

The council says, it “is connecting residents with a wide range needs, from those unable to get an online delivery slot to those who would normally rely on food banks, to food suppliers. Where possible we are supporting local businesses by highlighting those in operation.

This involves a regular check with local suppliers to connect people with the means to pay to the businesses still operating in their area. We use this list to signpost callers who reach us through the COV-19 helpline. We are finding that the information on which businesses operate and their capacity is changing on a daily basis, so printed lists will be out of date very quickly, and for larger print runs before they are distributed.

Those suppliers with confidence in their stocks and delivery arrangements are encouraged to add their listing to the council-sponsored listings at www.yorkmix.com/yorkbiz . This listing is growing daily”.

The list referred to still falls short of requirements.

It is framed as mini adverts which maybe fine for the businesses themselves but not for customers.

It falls short in not providing a comprehensive database – which gives all options for contactless ways of buying and having doorstep deliveries of food and medicines.

Pharmacies and supermarkets are a key part of the supply chain.

Funerals

Changing the way York Crematorium provides cremation services has been a very difficult and sad decision for the City of York Council to make, but necessary in light of public health concerns. We have listened to the advice around increasing numbers of Coronavirus cases in York, regionally and nationally, having yet reached the peak period of infection for the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Following further discussions with funeral directors and clergy, we will now be allowing one celebrant or minister to perform a short service, that will be filmed free of any charge.

We have attached our statement and updated FAQs for your information.

Micro-grants for businesses

A £1m City of York Council support fund for small and micro businesses which don’t qualify for government support has now been fully launched, with applications now open.

The City of York Council micro business grants scheme will deliver grants of up to £1000 into 1000 self-employed, micro and small businesses who need it most. 

Applications can be made through https://www.york.gov.uk/COVIDMicroGrant and are available to businesses which:

  • have 50 or fewer employees, including one person business/self-employed;
  • need support adapting to new trading arrangements;
  • are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus, and
  • do not qualify for any other government grant or rate relief support packages.

The latest information for business is available at www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSupport.

PPE business ask

We are appealing to the Government for additional personal protective equipment (PPE), and asking local businesses for any spare PPE, so it can be used by the authority’s care workers.

Although the council’s care teams currently have sufficient PPE, stocks nationally are running low, and priority is being given to NHS staff.

All our care workers are following national government guidance on the PPE they need to wear. In a similar way to NHS staff, care staff need to use PPE to keep themselves safe from the risk of infection. The items we need are disposable plastic aprons, gloves, black bags, masks, eye protection goggles, alcohol based hand sanitiser and hard surface wipes.

Anyone who thinks they may have useful PPE is asked to email PPE@york.gov.uk. We thank everyone for their support. In fact a number of businesses have stepped forward already, to whom we are incredibly grateful of what is another demonstration of York’s community spirit.

An update on homelessness

From 23 March we have provided 11 households and 12 single homeless people temporary accommodation. While very few of these cases were connected to coronavirus, as a precaution and with support from local organisations, their accommodation meets social distancing criteria.

All the rough sleepers we are supporting are already known to us. The vast majority have accepted the accommodation which each and every one is being offered. We continue to work hard to persuade them all to come into accommodation and to stay in it while the emergency continues.

We have not yet received any additional Government money relating to homelessness to date, nor have we been told how much York will receive.

Virtual libraries

Thanks to £17K of extra funding from City of York Council, Explore is now able to extend the current range of virtual services to support individuals, families and communities of York during the Coronavirus emergency to help people whilst they stay at home.

The extra funding means Explore can now extend what is on offer:

  • Press Reader. Explore will buy a 12 month subscription to Press Reader This will provide  access to over 7000 daily newspaper and magazine titles from more than 100 countries.  
  • More e-books and e-audiobooks
  • Specialist conferencing software to bring people together in a virtual space and invite them to challenge their imagination in new ways.
  • Support with getting online

Rough sleepers in York fell from nine to seven people in 2019 confirms Council

Following our story yesterday, the Council has now confirmed that the problems with rough sleeping in the City have eased a little over the last 12 months.

In a media release issued today they say, “After another year of prevention and giving tailored support to people sleeping rough in the city, more people have been helped into safer more stable accommodation.

The official, annual rough sleeper count in York showed seven people were sleeping on the street in 2019: down from nine in 2018.

The annual official count of rough sleepers takes place nationally at the same time. This year, City of York Council decided to do its count earlier than in previous years and before the additional winter beds open, to create a more accurate picture.

For two months before the count, information was gathered from statutory and non-statutory organisations, and it was established who was believed to be rough sleeping and who was confirmed to have accommodation. Information about where people often slept was collated from StreetLink reports, information from members of the public and from findings by the regular street walks.

On 30 October 2019 from 3.30am, officers from the council, the Salvation Army, North Yorkshire Police and local charities walked the streets of York looking for people sleeping out, and visited places known to be used by rough sleepers.

Seven rough sleepers were found and this number was verified independently by Homeless Link based on both the findings of the overnight count on 30 October and information gathered previously.

The number of people sleeping rough in York in 2019 is two fewer than in 2018. In 2017, the official number was 29, in 2016 and 2015 it was 18. Work continues to reduce this number further and help more people off the streets into safer, more stable lives.

Cllr Denise Craghill, executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, said: “While rough sleeping reduces average life expectancy from 83 to 47 years and we would rather no-one slept out at all, it is encouraging to know that fewer people are sleeping on the streets in York this year.

“While numbers of people sleeping out fluctuates throughout the year, this reduction shows the impact of our partnerships and our personalised work to help this people into the right kind of supported accommodation.

“I would like to thank our dedicated homelessness team and all our partners for their hard work and continued commitment to encourage more people off the streets.”

Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the council, said: “This is welcome news. Sleeping on the streets is an indignity that no-one should face and the council is taking steps to support rough sleepers off the streets.

“Our homelessness prevention work has secured an extra £400,000 to help rough sleepers with more personalised support and to tackle complex mental health issues. The council and its partners have also opened 11 extra emergency beds this year, in order to ensure we can offer rough sleepers a safe place to sleep.”

Anyone who sees a person sleeping rough can ring Streetlink on 0300 500 0194 who will us to visit the location and offer support. Also, there are many ways to help people off the streets at www.york.gov.uk/roughsleeping .

We and our partner charities encourage people not to give cash direct to those appearing to beg, but to give to York Street Aid at www.tworidingscf.org.uk/yorkstreetaid/ . Money raised goes directly towards helping homeless people in York in personalised ways, such as buying clothing for interviews, a bike to get to work or paying rent on an allotment.

Homelessness prevention in York gets £251k boost

A new grant of £251,000 to help reduce homelessness in 2019/20 has been awarded to City of York Council by the government.

The money will contribute to work to create safe and supported housing options for people with complex needs who are ready to stop rough sleeping and begin to move back into mainstream housing. This will include an increased use of our making every adult matter service, known as MEAM.

It will also be used to provide early help and prevention services as outlined in our Homelessness Strategy 2018-23 launched in June this year. We’ll be providing additional outreach support and use of a targeted approach to work with rough sleepers and single homeless people – some of whom have complex needs – to help them secure and remain in accommodation.

York backs national homelessness campaign

 City of York Council is supporting national Homelessness Awareness Week (30 November to 8 December 2016) to highlight the support and advice available to people to help them into secure homes.

This annual week of social, educational and awareness-raising events across the country, aims to highlight homelessness and the continued efforts of organisations and staff to support people at risk of homelessness or who are homeless.

Here in York, a multi-agency partnership continues to call for people to support the city’s homeless charities who tirelessly support people off the street all year round. The partnership asks people not to give direct to anyone on the streets but to please donate direct to the expert charities.

For the campaign, an easy and safe way of giving to local homeless charities is being promoted and people who wish to help are asked to give £3 by texting ‘York33£3’ to ‘70070’.
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Homeless households reduce as prevention measures continue

Rough sleeper number up on target in November

Rough-sleeper-London-006A report on homelessness shows that despite the pressures of the Boxing Day Floods, numbers of temporarily homeless people were lower than forecast.

This and other outcomes will be presented to the Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities on 18 July at 3pm, along with proposed targets and priorities for 2016/17.

In 2015/16 the council exceeded its target and reduced the number in temporary accommodation to 53. Statutory homelessness also continues to reduce with 91 cases in York in 2015/16 (an 11.6 per cent decrease on the previous year) which is in contrast to a national increase of 5.8 per cent. Added to that, 630 homeless prevention cases were successfully handled that year which the report recognises as a vital part of the service and significantly contributes to the reduction in statutory homelessness.

Providing bed and breakfast for families is recognised as a measure of last resort and then for no more than six weeks. As of the end of March 2016, there was only one household accommodated in bed and breakfast and this was not a family.

In addition, the council’s highly-successful Older Persons Housing Specialist exceeded targets by supporting older residents to meet their changing housing needs, and the service has been extended for a further six months.

Despite ongoing work, the commitment of agencies, continued resources and new flexible methods of working, the number of rough sleepers in York rose to 18 in November 2015.

York’s ongoing interventions by the council and partners – including Arc Light and the Salvation Army – means that the city has the resources to accommodate longer-term homeless people meaning that no-one need sleep rough in York. The city’s No Second Night Out scheme also helps rough sleeper in the city to find a place in a hostel.

The advice available to residents include work around mental health and housing to help people at risk to secure and maintain tenancies, while infrastructure improvements are being proposed for the Ordnance Lane temporary accommodation site.

National changes bring new challenges into social housing which could lead to the reduction in available affordable housing for rent which is likely to place additional pressures on the service.