Leeds council drawing up new plan to tackle rough sleeping in city

The latest government figures shed light on the scale of homelessness in Leeds.
The latest government figures shed light on the scale of homelessness in Leeds.

Rough Sleeping is the greatest challenge when it comes to tackling homelessness in Leeds, a leading councillor has said.

Coun Debra Coupar said plans were now being drawn up for a new approach to how Leeds City Council and its various partners can bring the number of people sleeping on the streets to a minimum.

Read more: Safeguarding panel's review to examine deaths of homeless people in Leeds

She spoke about the latest developments as the YEP continues its week-long series focusing on the response to homelessness, rough sleeping and begging in our city.

Coun Coupar, executive member for communities, said: “We are continuing to work extremely hard and remain absolutely committed with a range of partners and third sector organisations to doing everything possible to minimise homelessness and provide meaningful support to people who find themselves in this situation.

“This includes offering a package of help to prevent anyone losing their home and becoming homeless.”

The latest annual figures show that in 2017/18, the council handled 11,229 cases where people were homeless or at risk of being homeless.

They were able to prevent homelessness in 9,180 cases – just under 82 per cent.

There were 32 households in temporary accommodation at the end of March after meeting the ‘statutory homeless’ criteria which means a local authority must intervene.

And unlike some other areas, Leeds City Council has not needed to place any homeless family in bed and breakfast accommodation since 2013.

Read more: YEP joins national project to record homeless deaths on UK streets

Coun Coupar said the figures showed that Leeds compared well to other large cities.

“We and partners have, over the last three years, become increasingly successful at preventing homelessness,” she said. “This has meant that we have a comparatively low level of temporary accommodation placements and we don’t need to use inappropriate temporary accommodation options such as bed and breakfast placements for families with children.

“Homelessness and rough sleeping are, of course, extremely complex issues though, and we are certainly not complacent to the challenges that we face. For us, even one person living on the streets is too many.”

She said she believed the city was moving in the right direction and there was no need for anyone to sleep rough in Leeds.

The latest rough sleeper figure of 28 was the equal lowest proportion per 1,000 households of the eight core cities nationally, but it marks the highest level since 2010 and is significantly higher than the city’s own target of no more than seven people by 2017.

Read more: New Leeds homeless advisors to deal with 'significantly increased' workload

Coun Coupar said: “The council is currently developing with partners fresh plans to bring rough sleeping down to a minimum. We are hoping to be in a position to deliver this new strategy by the end of this year.

“Currently on a daily basis, partners and our street outreach teams will engage with those who are rough sleeping and make offers of accommodation, which for a variety of reasons, such as mental health issues and addictions, are not always accepted.

“The challenge remains as a local authority and as a city of what can be done to make sure that more people are able and willing to accept the support available.”

Visit www.streetlink.org.uk/ to refer a rough sleeper to local support services.