Accommodation Scheme is Keeping People off the Streets
A project to provide accommodation for rough sleepers is making a difference in South Tyneside, with no tenants returning to homelessness.
The borough now has seven one-bedroomed properties specifically aimed at people sleeping on the street, or at risk of becoming homeless.
The accommodation was bought with over £2m in funding from the government's Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme and brought up to Decent Homes standard and furnished before letting. In addition, the funding provides outreach support for tenants in times of crisis or emergency.
Eligible tenants may stay in the homes for up to two years, helped by housing support officers to gain the skills they need to move on to independent living.
Anthony* found himself living rough after his long-term relationship ended and he was asked to leave his home.
The 57-year-old slept in an abandoned garage for three weeks, before moving on to a garden shed.
He said: "I left my home without any possessions as I assumed it would all blow over. I slept in an abandoned garage and it was absolutely freezing and damp. My head was all over the place.
"I've always been a bit of a loner and kept myself to myself so I didn't call on friends or anything. No one knew I was there. But after a while I started to wonder if I would make it to the next day.
"I went to the doctor and he managed to put me in touch with an outreach worker from South Tyneside Homes. He started off by getting me food parcels as he knew I hadn't been eating.
"He then put me in touch with my support worker, who managed to get me this flat. As an ex-alcoholic I really wanted to avoid going into a house of multiple occupation."
Anthony is visited by his support worker several times a week and is helped with finance and managing benefit claims, accessing different services and ensuring he attends appointments.
He added: "She's a godsend, she helps with anything I need and I'm so grateful for this support; I dread to think where I'd be now without it. I feel settled and like my life is getting back on track."
The Government Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) was introduced in summer 2020 as a response to the high number of people placed within hotels during the initial 'Everyone In' instruction during the covid lockdown period. The scheme focused on increasing suitable accommodation and adequate support for people sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough, with a priority to remove barriers to more sustained accommodation, such as debt and rent arrears.
Liam Salkeld, 39, has been living in one of the borough's properties since June, after spending several months in an HMO.
The former sales trainer said: "I had to get out of my last relationship and after spending a couple of weeks in a hotel, I was put in an HMO.
"I was absolutely desperate to get out of there, it was the wrong environment for me, with lots of addiction issues and so on.
"I spoke to a local councillor who put me in touch with my support worker and she fought tooth and nail to get me in one of these flats.
"I have been in a lot of debt in the past so I am working hard to clear that with her support then I can move towards getting a long-term tenancy."
South Tyneside Council carries out regular head count of rough sleepers in the Borough and at the last count, in May, identified four people.
Cllr Paul Dean, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: "Fortunately in South Tyneside we don't have the scale of problem experienced in other parts of the country, however the cost of living crisis means that we are seeing an increase in the number of people presenting as homeless.
"This scheme is helping people who would otherwise come up against barriers to securing accommodation. While they are able to stay in the properties for up to two years, most have managed to move on in less than a year, thanks to help and guidance from their support officers to navigate the transition to independent living and sustaining a tenancy.
"The reasons why people end up homeless are complex and we take a holistic approach to ensure these vulnerable residents get access to the support they need to avoid getting entrenched in a cycle of repeat homelessness."
*name has been changed