In March 2020, the Government tasked Local Authorities to accommodate all rough sleepers as part of the public health response to COVID-19.
Since then, Essex County Council (ECC), city, district & borough councils, including Rochford District Council, local organisations and partners have all come together to make this happen.
As part of this response, since 26 March around 350 rough sleepers across the county have been temporarily housed in hotels, temporary housing and B&Bs, receiving a host of additional support along the way.
In September 2019 alongside partners, Rochford District Council became part of the Essex Rough Sleeper Outreach Service, the new approach to assisting those in need and providing a street outreach service. Since its launch, the service has engaged with over 158 rough sleepers.
The partnership between Rochford, Chelmsford , Maldon, Epping Forest, Braintree and ECC is delivered by CHESS (Churches Homeless Emergency Support Scheme) a homelessness charity that seeks to relieve homelessness and related hardship and distress amongst single adults, through the provision of support services and temporary accommodation that helps them move on in their lives.
Rochford District Council are currently working with CHESS to develop personalised support plans to identify a range of needs including mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, employment as well as informing housing needs and are working hard to identify and source appropriate accommodation to ensure that rough sleepers are permanently housed as they transition from emergency/temporary accommodation.
Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community, Cllr Mike Webb, said: “Rochford District Council’s Housing Options Team has been striving to support our most vulnerable residents during the lockdown period, working closely with our partners across Essex to ensure help gets to those who need it most at this extremely difficult time.
“In total, the council has managed to temporarily house ten people who had been sleeping rough, as well as dealing with more than 300 enquiries a month ranging from those who require housing advice to those in immediate need of assistance.
“I would particularly like to thank our partners, CHESS, who provide a vital homeless outreach service to our communities, and have recently been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of their outstanding work and commitment.”
Chief Executive of CHESS, Rob Saggs, said: “Those sleeping rough in our county have needed our support more than ever over the past three months and we are proud to have been able to support them.
“No one should be sleeping rough in this day and age, and we will continue to do all we can to make sure those that are eventually have somewhere safe to call home.”