Expert advice sought to tackle rough sleeping

 A panel of experts is being brought together by Malvern Hills District Council to help develop a new approach to tackling rough sleeping, particularly in rural areas.

The event, which will take place sometime in February, will draw on expertise from both national and local organisations from the housing, health and voluntary sectors.

The focus will be on how best to work with and support rough sleepers who have become entrenched in street life and present with complex issues including drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems.

Leading national homelessness charity Crisis has already agreed to be part of the panel and advice is also being sought from the Government's Rough Sleeper Unit.

The panel will also consider issues such as bed provision - both temporary and permanent in the area - and improving public reporting and education around rough sleeping. Understanding the factors driving the increase in rough sleeping both locally and nationally will also be examined.

Councils across Worcestershire are being invited to attend as it is recognised all areas are experiencing a rise in rough sleeping and it is an opportunity to share expertise and experiences.

Findings from the event will be used to develop a model that can be trialled across the area. Support for funding for such a trial has already been sought from the Government by West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin, following discussions with the Chief Executive of Malvern Hills District Council, Jack Hegarty.

Malvern Hills District Council already works extensively to prevent homelessness and support rough sleepers. In the last five financial years more than 800 households have been prevented from becoming homeless due to the work of the council's housing team and CCP.

However, following the deaths of two rough sleepers in Malvern in recent months the council has pledged to adopt an even more rigorous approach to tackling this issue.

Cllr David Chambers, Leader of Malvern Hills District Council, said: "Housing issues were already a priority for this council but the two recent deaths of rough sleepers in Malvern has brought the wider and more complex issues that surround rough sleeping into stark focus. We all want to see an end to rough sleeping and to achieve this we will need support from key partner agencies both locally and nationally.

"Bringing experts together will allow us to benefit from their experience and knowledge so we can develop something that will allow us to deliver even greater support and positive solutions for those sleeping rough."

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