From enforcement to effectiveness in ending street homelessness
Today (5 July) Crisis, in collaboration with the National Police Chiefs' Council publish a unique and practical guide for police, local authorities and other local partners, sharing ideas and experiences about how best to respond to street homelessness.
The debate about the role of enforcement measures in tackling homelessness has long been had amongst different organisations. Our new guide seeks to move away from the theory, and into the everyday practical concerns of the police and other agencies in communities up and down the country.
Everybody wants a future where street homelessness has been resolved. Government strategies in England and Wales set the political direction for this, and extraordinary measures during the pandemic showed just how much can be achieved when we set our collective minds and energy to the task.
Community policing involves a balancing act between the interests and concerns of different groups, and when it comes to responding to street-based activities, the picture can be complex. Anyone who is homeless, especially those sleeping rough, will inevitably be subject to danger and trauma, and the shocking outcomes for people are well documented. It is also true that too often street-based living creates concern for the community at large, especially when the public and local businesses report issues of public safety, worries about substance overdose, etc.
Police forces, local councils and others live these dilemmas every day, and to make progress we must acknowledge the fact that it is difficult. Nobody argues that simply using enforcement measures in situations of vulnerability and homeless is the right thing to do. Yet, achieving the right mix of responses can be difficult, and may require us to try new things, and to take some risks.
Our guide contains countless examples of services and innovations, from South Wales to Essex, and Tyneside to Devon and Cornwall. What links them all is a fundamental principle of collaboration. No two communities are the same, but in every town and city, it is when carefully designed council, voluntary sector and police-based responses work together that we see progress.
The answer to every case of homelessness is always about housing and adequate support, but the journey to get there may be long and complex. It may take months or even years of assertive but trauma-informed outreach. There may be failures along the way, and people do not follow neat patterns of progress, and so local agencies need to acknowledge and plan for these complex challenges.
It is often the case that communities don’t have all the services they might need, for example we know that more provision is needed in most places for people rough sleeping with severe mental health and substance abuse needs. Once again, collaboration is a key part of the answer, and the guide contains remarkable examples of agencies pulling together to provide what is necessary.
The publication of this guide is by no means intended to be the last word on these issues. Indeed, we hope that the contents will be discussed and improved on. Not every example in the guide has worked perfectly, and by the sadly still high numbers of people who are street homelessness we know full-well that there is much more work to do.
If your community, police force, local council or community group is doing great work to collaborate on answers to rough sleeping and street-based activities, please let us know and If you would like to organise a session with your officers, or community on these issues, we’d be delighted to arrange that with you.
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Downie MBE
Director of Policy External Affairs, Crisis
Assistant Chief Constable NPCC Lead for ASB and Homelessness
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