Bid to tackle homelessness

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WIGAN Council has set itself an ambitious target to make rough sleeping a thing of the past after signing up to a new government initiative to tackle homelessness.

The council has committed to No Second Night Out, a new scheme currently being piloted in London, which tries to ensure that anyone who ends up sleeping on the streets is helped off the streets before they have to spend a second night without a roof.

Wigan Council signed up to the scheme after members of the housing strategy team supported it at a meeting on hospital discharge in the North West, which was also attended by Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, an organisation representing more than 500 homelessness agencies.

The scheme operates a 24-hour hotline which anyone can ring to report someone sleeping rough, who is then visited as quickly as possible by outreach workers who take them to a hub centre manned by trained professional staff from No Second Night Out. Alternative, safer housing is then found, and rough sleepers are given access to healthcare and other services, including advice for dealing with alcohol or drug addictions.

More controversially, No Second Night Out also states its aim is to reconnect rough sleepers with their hometown or country and encourages them to relocate.

The scheme also seeks to co-ordinate various local approaches to homelessness being used across the country into a single gold standard method of dealing with rough sleeping, which must meet No Second Night Out’s criteria.

Results from the pilot scheme in London show that 68 per cent of rough sleepers who visited the No Second Night Out hub were found alternative accommodation, compared to just 12 per cent who did not go to the hub.

Dealing with homelessness in Wigan is currently the job of the Homelessness Forum, a multi-agency organisation which sets out to deal both with the practical effects of homelessness and tackle its root causes.