Agenda item



Councillor Bayford asked Councillor Whitehead the following question:


''As we do not currently have a communal residence for people registered as homeless, I'd like to know when the Edgar Road site is likely to be ready for occupation by RISE.”


Councillor Whitehead responded with the following points:


·  Rough sleeping and homelessness provision is of great importance to me; principally because one of my main reasons for first considering becoming a Councillor was my time spent volunteering at the Thanet Winter Shelter, and my belief that we needed to have year round, 24/7 and multi agency provision.

·  I have always believed that it is our duty as a Council to provide long term, one site provision. Our first communal residence came about the last time I was Cabinet member for Housing, during the pandemic, and unfortunately ended due to the fact that we didn’t own the building and were only leasing it until it was brought back into its usual usage.

·  Across this period our communal accommodation typically housed between 20-25 people per night in individual rooms, with access to common areas and multi agency support.

·  When this lease ended in February 2023 6 residents still required support into individual accommodation. From those six, four went into Temporary Accommodation and 2 went into RISE Supported accommodation.

·  The benefits of this one site model are clear, especially for those with complex needs; through having this communal base and outreach we were the first Council in Kent to successfully offer and administer COVID vaccinations to those rough sleeping or known to RISE, as well as offering medical and dental services on site. The next step to take was to ensure that these services had a Council owned home, not subject to external lease or instability of provision linked to that.

·  These services are provided via our RISE service that provides support for people that are at risk of rough sleeping in the district. Rough sleeping is a complex and highly individual matter; and the premise of our RISE team functions so well precisely because it recognises the importance of combined services, multi agency approaches, and genuine connection and understanding; these processes are often not short term, and building trust and belief in the ability of services to help, and individuals ability to empower themselves within their own tenancies is vital. This includes outreach services to provide support for people sleeping rough as well as help with finding and managing a home and with preventing eviction.

·  We have completed the acquisition of a large site in Edgar Road Margate, with the long term intention of converting it into self-contained homes for affordable rent. We are currently using it as our first ever council owned home for RISE, providing not only accommodation but also essential on site services and multi agency support for residents, to provide homes whilst building confidence and ability to maintain long term individual tenancies. This is a huge step forward for us, and an important and necessary investment in the health and wellbeing of our residents and community. It will increase the supply of available accommodation for homeless people. The Edgar Road site will provide sixteen units of independent accommodation within a communal building; providing access to support, as well as more independence and privacy than a shelter model.

·  We are currently completing essential health and safety works in the building and as soon as these are completed the service will be able to use the building. We anticipate residencies will begin from the 4th of November.

·  Unfortunately, as we have discussed many times in this Chamber, funding allocations are not continuous, which makes long term rough sleeping and homelessness planning challenging for all Councils. The RISE service currently has government funding until March 2025 and will be able to use the building in Edgar Road throughout this period; housing and homelessness is an absolute priority for this administration, as demonstrated by our commitment to increase our provision of social housing and in house temporary accommodation for local residents, and we will continue to bid and do our absolute best to secure funding for residents in need of this service.

·  As soon as Edgar Road is available, which should be by the 4th of November, we will have sufficient accommodation to accommodate every known rough sleeper in Thanet. All those currently accepting support from RISE will be able to access our first ever Council owned, multi agency rough sleeping provision, which is an exceptional achievement, and I thank RISE and Housing Officers for all their work on this project.


Councillor Bayford followed up her question asking whether the RISE team were able to provide their full services to homeless people in their current format, by meeting homeless people in multiple different locations?


Councillor Whitehead responded that the RISE team worked in many different ways, and outreach work was a huge part of this. The communal model was argued as providing the best possible outcome, however this should diminish outreach support, or ongoing work after people leave the center.