Cash boost to help the district’s homeless

Sleeping rough in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2018. Photo: Mark Williamson

Thousands of pounds are to be ploughed into services to help the homeless in Stratford after the District Council received a large Government grant.

The district council, together with Rugby Borough Council has received £130,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to improve front line support for rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness.

Stratford-on-Avon and Rugby are among 163 areas that will share £11 million, investing the money in extending Stratford’s Housing First scheme, providing trauma counselling and recruiting a rough sleeper co-coordinator in Stratford and Rugby.

Housing First was launched by Stratford District Council in 2015 and provides entrenched rough sleepers with self-contained tenancies and intensive support.

Cllr Jo Barker, People Portfolio at Stratford-on-Avon District Council, said: “We’re really pleased to have secured this funding from MHCLG to help people rebuild their lives.

“The district council is already running a number of initiatives to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness, but additional resources will help us to achieve the Government’s delivery plan as we remain committed to reducing homelessness and rough sleeping in the district.”

The funding comes at a time when the district council is under public pressure to provide more support to vulnerable people in the town, following the closure of the Link Project drop-in centre earlier this year.

That facility was closed following safety concerns and there has been no word yet if or when that facility will ever open again.

Instead the Link Project Team is running two weekly drop-in sessions for the homeless at Stratford’s United Reformed Church, while the council seeks a more permanent solution.

Those sessions are set to end temporarily later this month, though the council has stated that they will resume again in September.

Stratford homelessness campaigner Jackie Lines said: “Any investment in this area is certainly worthwhile, I certainly support the provision of trauma counselling, especially if there is an element that includes addiction support. However i’m not convinced that Housing First is the best way to help people with complex needs.

“The two-day per week Link Project sessions at the United Reformed Church are not sufficient and I believe they are also set to end later this month as the venue is unavailable through the summer.

“I do hope establishing a five-day per week multi-agency hub to help vulnerable people in Stratford is also still high on the council’s agenda.”

Street pastor Barry Juckes, who recently organised a charity choir concert to support the Stratford Link Project, added: “Whilst I am disappointed that the money does not seem to have been put towards finding a new permanent venue for the Link Project, I do welcome any investment to support the homeless in Stratford, it’s very welcome.”