During the pandemic, Cheltenham has received over £300m in Government financial help, through furlough and grants to businesses, Cheltenham Festivals, our theatres and so much more.
But it is cash to support those at risk of homelessness that is having some of the greatest impact. Rough sleeping is a stain on a decent society. Our goal should be nothing less than its eradication in Cheltenham.
So, after much lobbying, I am pleased to say that an additional £1.4 million is coming directly to Gloucestershire to support a range of targeted projects to help rough sleepers off the streets for good. It comes as part of an unprecedented £750 million investment this year to tackle this issue.
The money will be used to strengthen the county’s outreach services, source flats in various locations across Gloucestershire, and build on the tremendous work of the ‘safe place to stay’ homeless hubs in central Cheltenham and Gloucester.
In 2018 we secured nearly £1 million from the Government to set up Cheltenham's homeless hub in the Cheltenham YMCA building, announced shortly after I raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The hubs are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide a safe environment off the streets. On arrival at the hub, staff rapidly assess a person’s needs and design a personal housing plan to make sure that there is no reason for them to stay sleeping rough.
Within 72 hours, individuals are fully assessed including identifying specialist support for complex needs such as mental health problems and substance misuse.
Meanwhile, the county’s Streetlink service puts rough sleepers in touch with dedicated outreach teams to get them the help they need, and start their journey into longer term sustained housing.
This latest funding will mean that the strong progress of recent years can continue. Let’s break the cycle of homelessness and rough sleeping for good.