'Everyone In' is supporting our borough’s most vulnerable
28 July 2021Having a place to call home is a situation many take for granted but for James Howell the reality of a permanent roof over his head brings tears to his eyes.
He said: “I have been hoping for my own home for ages and it means a lot. I felt like weeping I was that happy.”
James, 42, of Ellesmere Port, is one of the many former homeless people who have been provided with accommodation and emotional support this year by the Council and forfutures.
After ‘mixing with the wrong crowd’ in his teens, the 42-year-old’s life went ‘downhill’ and since then has been blighted by heroin addiction and the uncertainty of a life sofa surfing.
He is now in a better place emotionally and physically after being offered accommodation as part of the ‘Everyone In’ scheme to accommodate all homeless people during the pandemic. Since February he has been living in a flat in Ellesmere Port, is almost off methadone and considering taking voluntary work or applying for jobs.
James said: “It gets you down when you have got nowhere and you are properly on your own. I have been in some situations, rough with drugs and it doesn’t get much worse, not having anywhere, knowing your family can’t help you because they haven’t got the room. I was desperate.
“The Council are the next best thing when you are in that situation, so I rang them and they said we have got a place for you in a hotel as part of the ‘Everyone In’ scheme.
“I then moved to the Mulberry Centre in Chester in December 2020. I was in the Mulberry Centre for three months and I moved in here in February. My situation is 100 per cent better now. A total turn around.
“I have been doing alright recently, staying off the drugs. My last four or five samples have been clean, apart from methadone. I am doing good really.
“I have had excellent support. They keep me on my toes, like the other day when they sent me advice about how to clean my cooker with bicarb and vinegar. They said it just gives you something to do this afternoon James.
“Ideally, get off the methadone and get back into work, they are my main plans.
“People need to want to help themselves. A lot of these homeless people, 90 per cent of them, have probably got addiction problems so it is difficult. It is done on a case by case thing, the ones in difficult situations get more support than others who need support weekly.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council wants to end rough sleeping and will continue to provide support to people like James who want to improve their lives.
Considerable Council resources have been allocated to these services. The Council has recently been successful in securing funding from the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. This will mean it can continue to provide support services for those in hotels, at the Mulberry Centre, or those who have been assisted into their own accommodation, including mental health and substance misuse support.
It will also enable the Council to continue to run the Multi-Agency Rough Sleeping (MARS) project that was piloted in 2020-21.
MARS is a multi-agency partnership that works with 10-15 individuals who have the most complex needs and a history of sleeping rough.
A review of the pilot found improved outcomes for many of the individuals supported as well as very positive feedback from all the members of the partnership, which includes both statutory and voluntary sector organisations.
Councillor Matt Bryan, Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Climate Emergency, said: “The Council is committed to tackling rough sleeping and government funding will continue to fund valuable services and support to people who sleep rough or at risk of sleeping rough.
“The issue of rough sleeping is not usually just one of lack of housing; often individuals have other needs that they need support to address including substance misuse and mental health issues.
“MARS (multi agency rough sleeping initiative) is having some very positive outcomes. It takes a person-centred approach and addresses each person’s case individually.
“We have seen a big reduction in the number of people sleeping rough on the borough’s streets since ‘Everyone In’ has been in place. The Council will continue to look for suitable locations where we can provide additional supported accommodation for people sleeping rough.”
The Council made the early decision in March 2020 to shut Hamilton House and move everyone into hotel accommodation, before the Government announced the ‘Everyone In’ policy, to protect rough sleepers from the virus.
We accommodated everyone in hotels through to Summer 2020 and again in Autumn/Winter 2020, during the second wave of the pandemic. We provided additional supported accommodation at the Mulberry Centre in Chester. In partnership with the voluntary sector, such as Soul Kitchen, we provided food to people being supported by ‘Everyone In.’
The Council has decided that ‘Everyone In’ will continue this summer whilst a full review is carried out to explore the implications, including costs, accommodation needs, additional staffing requirements and impact on partners.
If you’re interested in working to support people who are homeless, there are job opportunities with Cheshire West and Chester Council and forfutures: Current Vacancies (cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk) , Jobs (forhousing.co.uk) or www.forfutures.co.uk/careers