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'No second night on streets' for city's rough sleepers

City council plans new policy to tackle problem of homelessness which has sky rocketed since 2011

There will be no second night on the streets for Birmingham's rough sleepers under a new policy being adopted by the city council.

And a principle of 'no wrong door' will also mean that vulnerable homeless people will not be sent away if they call for help.

The policies have been agreed following an inquiry and report into rough sleeping by the city's housing watchdog committee.

Committee chairman Coun Victoria Quinn (Lab Sparkbrook) said that rough sleeping had doubled in the last year, become more visible on the streets and grown into a major issue of public concern.

The inquiry found the council, other public agencies and charities needed to do more to co-ordinate action and must "never walk by, know what part they play and ensure no second night on the street for anyone".

Expensive housing, reduction in welfare and cuts to mental health, domestic violence and addiction services had all played a part in the growing problem, it was claimed.

The official, annual rough sleeper count found seven people in a single night in 2011.

This has risen dramatically since then to a total of 55 in 2016.

She said that, while Birmingham was at the centre of a "perfect storm in the human misery of rough sleeping", the public outcry and sheer number of volunteers working in soup kitchens and with homeless charities and also fund raising showed the city had a "huge human heart".

Birmingham has a lower rough sleeper rate than many other major cities including Manchester and Bristol but it is still much higher than the best-performing city, Newcastle, where services are closely co-ordinated.

The council's housing chief Coun Peter Griffith welcomed the report and agreed to adopt the no second night policy.

He added: "We are pleased that a number of improvements have already been made during the inquiry, such as remodelling existing provision of accommodation to support rough sleepers with dogs and provision for couples.

"We have also been exploring the provision of short-term, night shelter opportunities with existing providers as well as the use of temporary homelessness units that can be located safely and appropriately in the city."

The council is also currently working on a wider homelessness strategy which will include measures to tackle rough sleeping.

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