A multi-agency partnership in Newcastle has embarked on an ambitious mission to end rough sleeping in the city for good.
The city council has teamed up with a range of partner agencies to launch Street Zero. The aim is to develop and deliver “compassionate solutions” to prevent homelessness occurring in the first place, and to end rough sleeping.
The city-wide initiative brings together organisations from the public sector, business, charity and community organisations. This degree of collaboration is considered essential, according to the Street Zero partnership board, as no single agency or service alone can manage the “complex challenges” that lead to rough sleeping.
“Our city is coming together to end homelessness, because we know we all have a part to play in that aim, whether that’s the council or the voluntary sector, or just people passing by and wanting to help,” said Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council.
“We know that at this time of year it’s more important than ever that we renew those efforts and make sure no one feels the need to sleep rough. The Sleep Zero fund is a great way for people from all backgrounds to help out, and I know Newcastle will get right behind it.”
The board’s newly developed ‘joined-up’ approach revolves around three key steps: prevention, responding and transforming.
Prevention looks at how to stop people having to sleep rough in the first place, while responding is about working together to provide personalised support to people sleeping rough by “assertive outreach”, offering a route off the streets as quickly as possible. The final element is about transformation: changing the city’s accommodation and support services so that people are offered a housing-led package of integrated and tailored support.
The Street Zero board is chaired by Bob Eldridge MBE, from Newcastle Homeless Commission. Previously chair of the trustees with The People’s Kitchen, he has more than 35 years’ experience working with vulnerable people, many with complex mental health issues and personal challenges.
“People who are rough sleeping are in that situation because of complex personal challenges, not just because of a lack of accommodation,” he said. “Rough sleeping is not inevitable and by working better together to help address the individual’s physical and mental health problems we can prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place.
“Newcastle is a city that cares. Every day, I see examples of the compassion shown by residents and people who live and work in the city, the businesses that take their corporate social responsibility seriously, and the many public and third sector organisations who are already working in partnership towards ending homelessness.”
Street Zero has been set up with the aim to build on this compassion and make use of already established agencies to further develop practical actions to alleviate disadvantage and suffering so that no one needs to sleep rough.
The situation doesn’t have an overnight solution, the partnership pointed out, but it says that by working together and implementing new strategies, it is anticipated that the lives of many vulnerable people will change for the better over the next four years.
A new emergency fund has been set up to help people who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping, by showing kindness and paying for things they need to help them to move away from a life on the streets.
“The well-established system of services we have in Newcastle is very effective in solving rough sleeping and the best way for anyone to help is to support and contribute to the system through the Street Zero Emergency Fund rather than individually giving to people on the streets,” said Eldridge.
“Street Zero donations are channelled to local nominated services and charities working directly with people sleeping on the streets who are then able to purchase items and services on behalf of the people most in need.”
Further support has been given by The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman who is the partnership’s Patron.
“The values of Street Zero, honouring the human dignity of every person, are values I share, and I am proud to be your Patron,” she said. “With determination and a desire for coordinated action, I believe Street Zero stands a real chance of ending homelessness in our City. This will be my hope and prayer for the work that is now to begin in earnest.”
Main Image: Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes and Bob Eldridge MBE