"We still have a long way to go to ensure we achieve our goal, but I have every confidence in our partners and my colleagues that we can create a city where nobody has to end up sleeping rough."
Cllr Joyce McCarty
The founder of Newcastle Homeless Commission, Bob Eldridge MBE, who established Street Zero in 2018 as a way to coordinate city-wide efforts to prevent homelessness and eradicate rough sleeping in the city by 2022, has praised their partners as latest figures reveal a significant drop in homelessness on the city’s streets.
Newcastle is now near to becoming the first UK city to end rough sleeping for good. So far this year, 185 people have moved into accommodation from living on the streets and 120 people have moved on from hostels into independent living in the community. By Spring next year, it is anticipated that 117 new self-contained flats will also be in use.
The Street Zero partnership has taken great strides towards its goal of ending rough sleeping in
Newcastle for good. It was working towards achieving this by 2022, however, the events of this year have accelerated the countdown to zero and the partnership is set to reach its goal much sooner than expected.
From the beginning of 2020 to the start of November, Newcastle has seen the number of people rough sleeping decrease by 82%. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, Newcastle City Council moved every person who was rough sleeping into hostel accommodation. Street Zero partners are working to help people who were rough sleeping transform their lives, as well as supporting those few individuals who have returned to the streets.
Currently, more than half of those still rough sleeping in the city have travelled from outside of the area. Newcastle City Council has established good working practices with its neighbouring councils to ensure that people from these areas are reconnected safely rather than presenting as homeless in Newcastle. Over the summer, 48 individuals rough sleeping accepted reconnection outside of the city.
The reduction is a testament to the success of the joined-up citywide Street Zero plan and the additional £1.2m government funding secured by Newcastle City Council for Street Zero’s housing and health initiatives, with a particular focus on mental health and addiction recovery.
Street Zero chair, Bob Eldridge, said, “Although we are encouraged by this relative success, Street Zero still sees it as an absolute failure that anyone sleeps rough in Newcastle.
"We are learning a lot from the pandemic and know there are areas where we can improve, especially considering the uncertain months ahead. We need to address some of the challenges that the most vulnerable will face going forward - this means ensuring that partners continue to work closely together to support people in their new accommodation providing them with the mental health and addiction support as well as activities such as arts, crafts, and sport to help people re-engage with society.
“Moving forward, we should consider the best solution for the individuals who are entrenched in life on the streets and reject the alternative to sleeping rough. We expect that this will be small in number, but we must be prepared to provide specialist support in these circumstances.
"Street Zero partners are the unsung heroes working tirelessly throughout the outbreak and subsequent lockdown to make this significant step-change in transforming the lives of people sleeping rough in our city. We aim to get this over the line and end rough sleeping once and for all.”
Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, said, “When Street Zero launched, there was one objective and that was to make rough-sleeping a thing of the past in Newcastle. In a short space of time Street Zero through Bob Eldridge has brought a range of public, voluntary sector, faith, and business partners together to make great strides to reduce rough sleeping.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we responded to the ‘everyone in’ call and made sure everyone had an offer of accommodation. I’m incredibly proud of how the homeless services in the city have remained operational throughout the pandemic. The hard part is making sure people continue to be supported and nobody else is allowed to slip through and find themselves in that unfortunate position.
"We still have a long way to go to ensure we achieve our goal, but I have every confidence in our partners and my colleagues that we can create a city where nobody has to end up sleeping rough.”
Visit www.streetzero.org for the latest news from the partnership and to find out how to get involved.
Photo Shows: Bob Eldridge MBE (Credit: The Bigger Picture Agency)
About Street Zero
Street Zero was established in 2018 to reach the most vulnerable people, respond to their specific complex needs, and help them move away from life on the streets. Partners are Newcastle Homeless Commission, Newcastle City Council, Changing Lives, Crisis, NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group, Northumbria Police, Shelter, Your Homes Newcastle, National Probation Service, NHS Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company, Tyne Housing, Home Group, Fenwick, NE1, and The Church Of England, Diocese of Newcastle