"The issue of homelessness comes into sharp focus in our town centres across the country at this time of year as Christmas markets open and festivities begin. I wanted to take this opportunity to reassure our residents, businesses and visitors that we are doing everything we can to support homeless people in Southampton to get back on their feet and off the streets.
"I have recently accompanied our front line outreach services to get a better understanding of the issue of homelessness in the city. I was especially impressed by the dedication and compassion our members of staff show towards some of the most vulnerable members of our community every day. Having taken part in a ‘Sleep out’ for charity earlier this month I now know all too well how difficult life is for those sleeping rough and how complex the causes of homelessness are.
"This compassionate approach does not stop us from taking action however in the small number of cases where anti-social behaviour is an issue and where individuals are exploiting other vulnerable people and the public for personal profit. In these cases we will work with our partners in the police to ensure the safety of the public and that Southampton remains an attractive modern city where people are proud to live and work.
"We’ve outlined below the prevention, support and enforcement services we are currently undertaking to tackle the issue. We spend, along with our partners in health, in excess of £5m a year on tackling this issue on everything from provision for rough sleepers to substance misuse support. We are already seeing positive outcomes as a result of this good work and I look forward to working with our city partners going forward on what is a problem for the whole of society to confront."
Southampton City Council is committed to tackling the issue of homelessness. We take a compassionate approach, encompassing extensive prevention and support activity and, where appropriate, enforcement. There are hostel beds available for most rough sleepers in the city, and services are routinely offered to all people identified as homeless.
Rough Sleeper Project
Southampton City Council will receive £400,000 over the next two years which will be used to help rough sleepers in the city by offering 24 hour intensive support, accommodation and crisis intervention working with local homelessness charity Two Saints. 27 individuals have already been engaged so far with 10 sustaining accommodation to date. The project is also showing promising results in getting people registered with health services and attending drug treatment.
City Welfare Officers
Two City Welfare Officers will make regular patrols of the city centre starting this December to provide a visible and reassuring presence for all members of the public. The officers will remove items abandoned in public spaces, particularly where they present a health or potential security risk and will signpost homeless people to local support and accommodation.
Street Homelessness Prevention Team
Our street homelessness prevention team work with people threatened with homelessness to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and to advise and assist individuals and families to secure accommodation.
Substance Misuse Services
Southampton City Council’s Public Health team commission drug treatment and outreach services which are having an impact on tackling substance misuse and helping to rehabilitate people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The city council’s Scrutiny Inquiry Panel is currently exploring the issue of tackling drug litter in the city and will report its findings in the New Year.
City Centre Car Park Cleaning Services
We have employed two new cleaning staff to work on city centre car parks and installed shutters where appropriate to improve the environment for customers.
Alternative Giving Campaign
Last year we launched our ‘Begging you for lasting change’ poster campaign across the city which has one very simple message: give to charities not individuals - your money will be used more effectively this way. The campaign - in partnership with local homelessness charities Two Saints and The Society of St James - aims to raise awareness of the issue of street begging and to encourage people to make donations directly to these charities via text message in a bid to help provide a longer-term solution by helping vulnerable people off the streets and into accommodation and support services.
How to donate to local charities:
Society of St James: TEXT ‘SOST10’ then the amount, e.g. £3 to 70070
Web: Society of St James Just Giving page
Two Saints: TEXT ‘TSDC30’ then the amount, e.g. £3 to 70070
Web: Two Saints Homeless Day Centre