People from across Southampton came together for the 9th Street Support Conference. Around 60 people met at Church of the Ascension to look at initiatives to reduce the number of those sleeping rough or begging.
Opening the conference, Deputy Council Leader Cllr Fielker applauded the work of the partnership over the past five years in building a collaborative approach to reducing the level of rough sleeping in the city.
The conference then heard from Tania and her lived experience of homelessness in Southampton. She described how she went from sofa surfing to being in secure accommodation that she feel settled in, after 18 months of support from Two Saints Charity.
There were updates on local projects, fuelled by volunteers, such as The Big Difference, Churches Winter Beds and from Southampton Street Pastors. A particular highlight was the work of Haircuts for Homeless who work nationally and have just come to Southampton. From the charity, salon owner, Jane described how she organises volunteer hairdressers to make regular visits to hostels like the Booth Centre in Oxford Street.
The keynote for the conference was provided by Dr Nick Maguire from the University of Southampton. He described the complex issues that led to people being homeless and staying homeless.
Homeless Health Care Nurse, Pam Campbell, announced the intention to have an annual Commemoration Service for at least 57 people who have died and were homeless in Southampton. The first service is planned for 1st November at Saint Mary’s Church.
Maria Byne and Sadie Brackstone reported back on behalf of Southampton City Council, noting rises in the numbers of people sleeping rough, in emergency accommodation and on the housing waiting list. They shared about the initiatives that have had a positive impact for individuals, despite the growing demands on the system across the UK.
Jade McCauley reflected back to the conference the purpose of the diverted giving scheme that has been in place in Southampton. The contactless points haven’t been a great success and will be coming to the end of their lease. A relaunch of the scheme, to discourage begging and raise awareness of agency support for people sleeping rough, is expected this year.
Trevor Pickup from Society of St James and Dan Pooley from Hope into Action gave updates on their models to buy move-on accommodation. Trevor said that Society of St James had added 100 accommodation spaces in the past few years and that they’ll continue to add housing with a mix of government grant funding and loans enabling the investments.
Rob Kurn closed the conference saying, ‘It is a travesty that we have rising numbers of homelessness in the city, but it’s us in the room alongside local officers and changes in national policy that will see better outcomes for people in the city’. www.streetsupport.net/southampton.