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DATE POSTED: 14/08/2013

St Martins' Rough Sleepers Team (CAPS)

The Contact, Assessment and Prevention (CAPS) team is based at Bishopbridge House from where it has continued its regular street surveys (during the day and at least once a week during the night or early morning) in Norwich to find and assist rough sleepers. Being based at Bishopbridge House enables the team to interact daily with colleagues about likely bed vacancies at the hostel.

507 people used the CAPS service in the 12 months to 31 March 2013 (compared to 568 for the previous 12 months) – an average of 10 new clients per week.  68 people (13% of all service users) were verified by the team as rough sleeping at the point of engagement with the service (compared to 98 for the previous 12 months). The City Council define a verified rough sleeper as someone who is seen bedded down on three separate occasions.

The team has seen a steady decline in the number of verified rough sleepers on the streets of Norwich since a high of 174 in 2007/8. However as resources do not permit an outreach session every night the number of rough sleepers may be higher than those verified by the team – 160 services users told the CAPS team they had slept rough the previous evening.  Arguably some of these people will be claiming they have slept rough in the hope of boosting their chances of accommodation. In other words the number of people who slept rough for at least one night on the streets of Norwich in the 12 months up to 31 March 2013 is likely to be between the verified figure of 68 and the claimed-to-have-slept-rough figure of 160.  On a daily basis the figure is typically in low single figures; for example on the official street count on 20 November 2012 six people were found rough sleeping.

The team also works with many other people who may be in extreme housing stress with nowhere to call a permanent home.

151 (30%) of all service users self-referred themselves to CAPS.  148 people (29%) were referred to the team from Norwich City Council. 139 ((27%) were referred by other advice providers.

The places where the 507 CAPS service users said they had stayed the previous night included “a friend” (40%); and “rough sleeping” (31%).

31% gave “private rented” as their last settled accommodation –implying that the loss of their private rented tenancy led to their homelessness.  30% gave their last settled accommodation “social housing” – either Norwich City Council or another local authority’s accommodation or hostels (including Bishopbridge House).  28% gave family and partners as their last settled accommodation.

 55% of all service users had a Norwich connection.  58% of all service users claimed they had no involvement with the criminal justice system.

The prevention of rough sleeping is an important part of the team's objective.  Where the team encounters people sleeping rough they aim to minimise the number of nights before those people can either be reconnected with their family, or provided with a hostel bed or other safe environment.  Other objectives for the team are to prevent people from slipping into homelessness, to assess their needs and to signpost them to other services. The outcomes for the CAPS team are important performance measures.

The Team’s outcomes for 2012/13 included finding beds for 209 people (41% of the service users).  This included 131 people who were found beds in Bishopbridge House.

The winter of 2012/13 was long and at times very severe – following a relatively mild one in 2011/12.   Norwich City Council's Severe Weather Protocol was frequently activated.  As soon as night temperatures were predicted to fall below zero on three consecutive nights the communal dining room at Bishopbridge House was made available for any rough sleepers in the city. The CAPS team ensured that everyone who could benefit knew about this arrangement. Despite the strain put onto staff of Bishopbridge House (and indeed existing residents) the arrangement worked well. There were no weather-related fatalities in Norwich. An important benefit of the arrangement was the degree of trust that was built up between CAPS staff and the temporary residents. This level of trust would have been harder to achieve "on the streets" and resulted in several “planned outcomes”.

Click here for the Trust's full Annual Report 2012/13


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