Homeless figures reach crisis levels in Rugby

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The amount of homeless people seeking shelter in Rugby has reached crisis levels.

People have been turned away because the Hope4 charity can’t cope with rising numbers needing help.

Leaders called an emergency meeting with Rugby Borough Council Homelessness Forum.

They said for weeks the ecumenical winter shelter, overseen by Hope4, has been forced to turn away some guests.

The Rev Dr Michael Bochenski, chairman, said each local church venue and volunteer team is set up to cater safely for up to 15 visitors overnight.

“We are often processing requests from 20 or more guests wishing to book a bed at each night’s shelter,” he said.

“This can be heartbreaking and means - in practice - that some vulnerable adults have been out on the streets at night in the rain and gales of recent weeks.”

Similar increases in numbers are also being experienced at the Hope Centre in Church Street with more than 30 guests turning up when it only caters for 20.

Dr Bochenski said: “Our experience reflects what we are hearing nationally.

“Among the factors that help to explain the worrying rise in numbers of those using charities like Hope4 are benefit delays and refusals especially for younger people, redundancy, growing rent arrears, the need to escape violence, addictions, family breakdown, and – increasingly – a serious shortage of affordable housing for those on the lower rungs of the ladder.”

Senior support worker Pete Wayman said many winter shelter guests automatically qualified for council help under what is called ‘band one provision’.

He said: “This meant that some guests were helped to leave the shelter and find accommodation much more quickly.

“The council housing team remain very supportive of us and do what they can but their recent decision to make winter shelter guests ‘band two’ only this winter has only added to our pressures.

“We have asked the council housing team to urgently reconsider this decision.”

The charity has also drawn attention to the discrepancy between official council ‘rough sleeper’ figures in October - six - and the 50 or so visitors who have, to date been using this year’s winter shelter.

Pete Wayman , senior support worker at Hope4 commented: “How can there be just six rough sleepers officially in Rugby when we are having to turn that number away from our shelter most nights?”

Cllr Leigh Hunt, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for sustainable inclusive communities, said Rugby Borough Council supports the work of Hope4 and recognises that the night shelter provides a valuable service.

She said: “However, Hope4 has so far not complied with the conditions of the financial contribution the council makes by disclosing where people staying in the shelter have come from. The council needs this to ensure it focuses limited homes and services on local people.”

Cllr Hunt said the Hope 4 team provided the rough-sleeper statistics which it calculated according to government guidelines.

“It is difficult for us to understand why it now believes that these figures are wrong. The figures were independently verified by Homeless Link, which is a charity that supports organisations working with homeless people.

“It is clear that the Hope4 team is struggling to cope and we will need to reflect on this when considering how we support the shelter next year.”

She added: “I will be asking council officers to meet Hope4 to discuss this issue, but also to underline the need for reassurance that it is mainly local people who are being helped to find a home locally rather than the shelter filling gaps in services in other areas and drawing people into Rugby from outside.”