Portsmouth City Council joined with key agencies in Portsmouth this week to join forces, share intelligence, and together tackle the issue of street homelessness in the city.
The Leader of the Council, Cllr Donna Jones, invited senior figures from partner agencies including Hampshire Constabulary and the NHS to discuss the many complex issues surrounding the problem of rough sleepers, and to consider how the authority and other organisations in the city can work together on the issue.
Like other major cities in the UK, Portsmouth has seen a rise in the number of rough sleepers and a related increase in other issues that are of concern to local residents and businesses, including anti-social behaviour, damage to property and aggressive begging.
The growing problem prompted Cllr Jones to call the meeting to ensure key agencies in the city are working together to tackle the issue and its impact, and to make sure the right balance of support is available for rough sleepers in Portsmouth.
Led by Cllr Jones, the meeting brought together a number of agencies, including the Police, NHS Solent, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Probation Service, as well as range of council services, including housing, public health and community safety. The meeting enabled information and professional advice to be shared around the many complex issues involved in rough sleeping and, while there were clearly no quick solutions, the need for a clear and consistent citywide approach to tackling the problem was agreed by all agencies involved.
The meeting agreed a number of priority areas of work to address the issue, including a clear focus is on helping those who want and need help, combined with enforcement action for those who don't engage with the support offered and cause issues for local communities. It was also agreed that work would be done to address the issues that cause homelessness, and to discourage rough sleepers from outside the area from coming to Portsmouth.
Portsmouth's champion for homelessness Cllr Paul Godier said:
"We're pro-actively working with our partners to tackle the issue of homelessness head on. Each rough sleeper has a variety of distinct needs, and we're working to the support the individuals, so that our approach is bespoke and takes their situation and the help they need into account. Through the intelligence we've collectively gathered over the past few years, we hope to put together a clear strategy that will make a big difference to this problem, both for the rough sleepers and for our residents."
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Donna Jones said:
"As with any major city in the UK, we've seen a significant increase in the number of homeless people on the streets over the past few years and we are working with our partners in the city to address this incredibly complex issue. If you are from Portsmouth and find yourself in this situation, and you are willing to engage with us, the council will do all it can to support you.
"At the same time, we have a duty to protect local communities, our residents and businesses, and to make sure the city is a safe place where people can live and work without fear of anti-social behaviour or aggressive begging. We also recognise that some rough sleepers come from outside the area and, with limited homes available, we just don't have capacity to help everyone who visits the city.
"Having called the homelessness meeting this week, I am very grateful to the agencies that attended and have committed to work together to tackle this issue and make a positive change for the city.
Superintendant for Hampshire Constabulary, Jason Kenny said:
"Rough sleeping is a problem in many areas across the country. It's really important we understand and raise awareness of the issues around homelessness in the city. By engaging with rough sleepers and providing the appropriate support we can reduce their vulnerability, and ensure they're safe and moving into a better situation."
"We also want to make sure everyone in the city, be they residents or rough sleepers, feels safe, protected and able to go about their daily lives without fear of aggression or intimidation. I'm looking forward to working together with our partners tackle this problem and ensure a safe city for all within it."