Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT)’s Executive has agreed to support a draft Single Homeless Accommodation Strategy which sets out the Council’s vision and objectives to end rough sleeping in the district by 2027.
The proposed strategy, which was welcomed by Executive members at a meeting this week, sets out an ambition to adopt a new voluntary responsibility to house a greater number of rough sleepers than the council has a statutory duty to accommodate.
This would significantly increase the number of single homeless which SWT is seeking to accommodate directly or through partners, and is a big step towards helping the Council meet the government’s objective to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end rough sleeping by 2027.
Executive Member for Housing, Cllr Fran Smith, said: “SWT is committed to providing more housing options for all members of the community. This includes having the right provision in place to prevent homelessness whenever we can and to help people faced with homelessness and sleeping rough to access suitable accommodation with extra support tailored to individual needs.
“The success of our future accommodation proposals and our ultimate aim to end rough sleeping in the district will require continued strong partnership working with our accommodation providers as well as the wide range of support services we work with.
“I hope our proposed solutions will be welcomed by the community and all those working to provide accommodation and support to our homeless and rough sleeping population.”
The Executive also agreed to continue short term use of Canonsgrove in Trull for temporary rough sleeping accommodation while it secures alternative long term provision.
The Bridgwater and Taunton College site was secured as emergency self-contained accommodation for rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its extended use for some single homeless was one of several options put forward for consideration following a review of accommodation requirements for single homeless people and rough sleepers in the district.
The extension up to March 2023 will ensure the most vulnerable continue to be protected while allowing time to identify and deliver new additional accommodation supply in the district close to all amenities.
The Executive recognised the concerns of Trull Parish Council and some members of the community regarding the continued use of Canonsgrove for homeless provision in their area and the need for better engagement between the Council and Parish Council as well as the local community. The Executive committed to building stronger two-way communications and engagement moving forward between the Council and community.
SWT’s housing team will work with homelessness providers and support agencies to deliver other accommodation options tested against the draft Single Homeless Accommodation Strategy. Progress made in identifying alternative provision to Canonsgrove will be reported back to Scrutiny Committee and full Council within the next six months.
Further work outside of this appraisal is also taking place to consider future provision for homeless families.