17 Aug 2018

Housing and Planning

Still time to take part in the rough sleeping and vehicle dwelling draft policy consultations

People are being reminded that there is just over a week left to take part in two consultations to help formalise the council’s approach to managing vehicle dwelling and rough sleeping encampments in the city.

The council has a duty of care to everyone living in the city and does not believe that sleeping on the streets or in a vehicle is a safe, long term option.

Two new draft policies have been drawn up to formalise the current approaches to managing our public spaces and provide people with the support they need to move away from the street.

So far over 550 people have taken part in the vehicle dwelling conversation and almost 300 people have responded to the rough sleeping consultation. But we want to make sure that anyone who wants to express their opinion has the chance to do so before the deadline on Sunday August 26.

A number of drop in sessions have been held to gather the views of those actually rough sleeping and vehicle dwelling as well as those of the wider community.

On launching the consultation, Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Sleeping on the streets or in a vehicle is not a safe, long term solution and our priority is to get people into suitable accommodation. Our aim is to have a fair process that is able to support people to improve their situation, but at the same time effectively deal with any associated anti-social behaviour. It is important to have an approach that is both compassionate and rigorous.

“As with other cities and towns in the UK we are currently experiencing high levels of rough sleeping and there has also been a steep increase in people sleeping in vehicles around the city.

“Both these situations are complex and we need, as a city, to continue to find innovative and sustainable options to tackle these issues.”

Whilst the consultations are happening simultaneously the two approaches are distinct, recognising that individual circumstances and needs can often be very complex and that there can’t be a one-size-fits all approach.

Both consultations are running alongside each other, with people having the opportunity to comment on one or both policies.

The city faces significant challenges, as vehicle dwelling, rough sleeping and the number of people at risk of homelessness have all increased. High rents, welfare reform and a lack of affordable housing have combined with a range of specific individual circumstances, and the situation needs to be addressed.

The rough sleeping encampment draft policy recommends that the council works with St Mungo’s to provide an improved joined-up outreach offer to people stuck sleeping rough on the streets of Bristol.

People who have set up encampments in and around the city centre would be given a written offer of an unconditional bed space starting that night for a week and further support towards a route off the street. During the unconditional week the outreach team would offer assessments and would agree a longer stay if needed.

Many people are currently not ready to engage and are turning down the support offered to them. As part of this proposed new approach, people will be able to take two bags of possessions with them, with all other items stored.

The notices and support offered would build on the current offer to people who are sleeping rough and camping in Bristol’s parks and open spaces. This would lead to a single joined-up approach across the city.

The vehicle dwelling encampment policy recognises that each situation needs to be assessed on a case by case basis.

It introduces more formal monitoring of encampments and assesses what impact an encampment is having – this includes considerations such as whether the encampment is peaceful, how many vehicles there are, what impact there is on the local community, whether there’s anti-social behaviour or illegal activities and how long an encampment is likely to stay. The impact of the encampment will determine the action taken.

Welfare assessments will take place to ensure that support can be offered where it is needed.

The consultations run until Sunday August 26. You can find out more about the policies and tell us what you think online:
• For rough sleeping visit www.bristol.gov.uk/roughsleeping.
• For vehicle dwelling visit www.bristol.gov.uk/vehicledwelling.

Alternative formats or paper copies of the information can be requested by emailing neighbourhoods&communities@bristol.gov.uk or calling 0117 922 2066. Paper copies will also be available from local libraries and the Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street.