Southampton September Conference – “No one comes off the streets due to the work of one agency”

Southampton Street Support Action Group held their sixth conference last week. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions this one was the first that was online. It was well attended by agencies, local government, the voluntary sector, councillors and our local MP’s.

The conference gathered to hear reports of the work with those sleeping rough over the lockdown period, and to look at some of the future plans for the coming months.

The keynote speaker was Mary D’Arcy (Executive Director, Communities, Culture & Homes at Southampton City Council) who gave a recap of the progress made using the funding provided under the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) which was having an impact on numbers by 2019.She also spoke of the “Everyone In “ policy during Covid-19 and the way in which that was implemented. The results summary shows really encouraging progress see slide for details. Mary moved on to talk of future developments that are planned particularly to provide additional accommodation in the city.

Claire Stagg (Service Manager at Two Saints) talked from an operational viewpoint of the lockdown period, outlining how things operated. She stressed how good the collaboration was and the way in which all organisations and the voluntary sector worked together  to produce strong practical results for service users. She spoke movingly highlighting two case studies of people for whom Covid-19 had actually been something positive, by giving them a new impetus and the opportunity to engage with the help available and so begin to turn their lives in a different direction.

Michelle Dawson, MD of Radian Community Services Company, told us about new plans for development of POD based temporary accommodation in the city. This is based on their experience of partnership working with Southern NHS Trust providing step down accommodation. It will be interesting seeing how this new initiative develops as it proceeds through the planning process into delivery.

Paul Leppitt talked about how the Streetsupport website was set up in 2018 to provide information about the services that exist in the city for all those interested in homelessness and the need for regular updates as services change to latest regulations. He also introduced a video of new initiative called Hope into Action which is a church-based charity providing supported accommodation, with news of people moving into the first house.

Jon Kuhrt a specialist Rough Sleeping Advisor at MHCLG started by emphasising “No one comes off the streets due to the work of one agency” and discussing the range of ways in which the statutory sector can engage with the voluntary sector. He looked at the ingredients of homelessness for those that end up rough sleeping and spoke of the importance of hope for individuals to find a different future. He also encouraged all of us in the city to focus on the prevention activities for the future.

Rebecca Handley from Go! Southampton spoke about plans for a new campaign called “Change the way you give” to support initiatives that support those sleeping rough in the city. It will have new contactless donation points in locations across the city

Jo Ash, Chief Executive of Southampton Voluntary Services, encouraged organisations and people to join the work by signing up to the Charter and making pledges of how they will work to make true the vision “Southampton is a city where no-one needs to sleep rough or beg”.  She closed the conference.

Royston Smith MP for Southampton Itchen attended the conference and said

“The Southampton Homelessness Conference was extremely worthwhile. I was comforted hearing about all of the good work which is being done to support homeless people in the city. Lifting people out of homelessness is critical in supporting some of the most vulnerable in our community. I hope that if anything good comes from this pandemic it will be that we have made significant progress in addressing the tragic homelessness issue.”