Council manager apologises for comment on rough sleepers

Worcester City Council’s Service Manager for Community Action & Strategic Housing, Nina Warrington, has today apologised for using the phrase “lifestyle choice” in relation to people sleeping rough in Worcester.

Nina said: “I apologise that my choice of words caused offence and were insensitive. The council is committed to working with and supporting rough sleepers and I am passionately and personally committed to that aim. We go above and beyond our legal obligations in this area. I want to urge rough sleepers to take up the services we and our partners provide, so we can help ensure they do not have to spend another night out on the streets in the cold.”

Worcester City Council works closely with a range of partners to support homeless people and rough sleepers, including the YMCA, St Paul’s Hostel, Maggs Day Centre, Worcestershire Homeless Intervention Team (WHIT) and others. Between us we provide outreach work, referrals to doctors and much more.

The Council operates a No Second Night Out protocol to provide a fast, simple and clear service for people newly arrived on the street. New rough sleepers are moved into an emergency short term shelter while a full housing needs assessment is carried out. The aim is to act early to avoid them becoming long term rough sleepers.

The Council has a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol in place, under which emergency night shelters are opened for rough sleepers if the weather is forecast to drop below zero degrees for three consecutive nights.

Also in place is the “Critical 10 Forum”, under which the council and its partners work with the police, social services, substance misuse specialists and others to work with the most entrenched rough sleepers to help them end their cycle of homelessness.

The Council compiles regular figures on the number of people sleeping rough in Worcester. The latest estimated figure is 27.

Additionally, the Council works with households who are at risk of becoming homeless. This involves providing advice and guidance and, when necessary, short-term emergency accommodation, followed in many cases by a move to permanent housing.

In the 12 months to September 2015, over 1,300 households contacted the Council for housing and homelessness assistance. Housing officers provided all of these households with expert advice and assistance to resolve their housing need and successfully prevented homelessness in nearly 70% of these cases.

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