Article by John Toman
Rough Sleeping Co-ordinator
Coventry City Council
Coventry had its first Pre-Eviction Panel meeting this month. The panel has short weekly meetings with the aim to both reduce the number of evictions for complex single people in the city and to better understand the problems which lead to evictions or abandonments with a view to exploring gaps in service provision, typical pathways, barriers, windows of opportunity and common trends or patterns.
Over the summer, local agencies working with rough sleepers formed a partnership, which sprang from the local Rough Sleeper Action Group and together we explored the presenting issues we were seeing on outreach, typical pathways, if they worked long term and the service gaps. The issue around evictions and abandonments as a presenting issue arose here and hence the pilot of a panel to consider imminent evictions and how we might minimise those for our cohort of complex individuals.
Crisis Skylight Coventry and Coventry City Council staff presented the idea to key partners, supported accommodation services and social landlords, and we agreed to pilot a weekly panel to consider individual cases with a view that we will collate as much information as we can so that even if the number of evictions we manage to overturn or delay is minimal we will have a more accurate picture of why people rough sleep or returning to rough sleeping.
Sharon West of The Salvation Army said “During these pre-eviction panel meetings The Salvation Army will assist where possible to give clients, that have been evicted from other providers, accommodation in either Harnall Lifehouse or Axholme House. By all working together there can also be solutions to stop the client being evicted in the first instance which will benefit them and assist in their journey to independent living”.
The first meeting felt very positive and resulted in an agreement that one gentleman, with a Notice to Quit and limited time in his current room, can be moved to a local hostel. Even though he presents with many complex issues it is felt he will have the best chance of recovery in the hostel that he is familiar with, will have more structure and he knows the staff. This means he can avoid court costs and still have somewhere stable to live while he is supported to manage his current problems.
Gail Cooper, Housing manager at The Gateway, said: “Citizen welcomes the opportunity to work with partner agencies at the earliest opportunity to try and prevent homelessness. The first meeting was extremely positive, all involved can only benefit from the shared knowledge and experience sat around the table. We are all working to the same goal to reduce homelessness. As a collective, it is our aim to reduce the number of people losing their accommodation, with eviction always being the last resort.”
We hope panel meetings will fine tune our thinking so we can then work together to solve the issues that arise. Non-payment of service charges is a major factor and not an issue we have an answer for immediately, but we have a shared desire to explore and resolve those key issues that are contributing to rising numbers of rough sleepers on our streets.