Homelessness task force to urgently reconvene to support Edinburgh's rough sleepers

HOUSING chiefs have urgently reconvened a homelessness task force to investigate how to support people rough sleeping on the Capital’s streets.

By David Bol
Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 6:35 pm
It is thought between 80 and 120 people sleep rough in Edinburgh every night, Picture: Ian Georgeson
It is thought between 80 and 120 people sleep rough in Edinburgh every night, Picture: Ian Georgeson

The task force, which will meet on Thursday, will specifically look at how rough sleepers can be better supported – with input from councillors, health bosses, police and voluntary organisations.

Figures released last year by the city council revealed that between 80 and 120 people are thought to sleep on the streets of Edinburgh every night. A row emerged earlier this year after police evicted rough sleepers from cemeteries in the city after council workers went against the authority’s policy and made complaints over anti-social behaviour.

The original homelessness task force was set up by the city council in November 2016 before being disbanded after bringing forward proposals to halt families being sheltered in bed and breakfast accommodation. One of the original aims of the task force was to reduce the number of people sleeping rough.

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Cllr Campbell said: “The people who are rough sleeping in our city are our most vulnerable citizens. We have a number of services specifically for people who are rough sleeping, including street based outreach workers who are out three times a day, seven days a week, speaking to people and offering support, advice and trying to link people into services.

She added: “We need to look at what we are offering, and how we are offering it, from a person centred perspective, and understand how we can better take services to the people who need them most, in a way that works for them.

“There is a real willingness from all partners to work together. We will focus on integrated working and practical outcomes which can be implemented, and which will form part of the recommendations for the rapid rehousing transition plan, which will be reported to committee in the autumn.”

The council’s rapid access accommodation provides 68 beds across three sites for rough sleepers, where people are supported in accessing more suitable accommodation. The project has seen 74 per cent of people moving on to suitable temporary accommodation.

Chief Inspector David Robertson, local area commander said: “Supporting vulnerable people in the city centre remains a priority for officers and I am pleased to be working alongside partners in the Homelessness Task Force.

“Over a number of years, our funded ward officers have forged excellent relationships with service providers in the city centre, which I am extremely proud of. It is through what is now routine joint working with Street Work, Salvation Army, Cyrenians, residents associations, the local authority, business community, and our partners in education to name but a few, that we collaborate to deliver solutions focused on harm reduction throughout the year.

“I look forward to working with the homelessness task force and remain committed to working alongside our partners to ensure the safety of those in our city.”