Council rejects plan to open empty Sheffield buildings to homeless

Council bosses have rejected opening empty buildings in Sheffield as winter shelters for the homeless.

Wednesday, 6th April 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2016, 11:21 am
Christopher Dunlop, whose online petition calls for the city council to open up empty buildings for the homeless

More than 5,000 people signed a petition calling for the city to follow the lead of former footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who allowed a new hotel they are building in Manchester to be used as a temporary shelter over the winter months.

But a report going to a council meeting on Thursday said there was ‘no need’ for the idea to be implemented in Sheffield on the grounds there are already sufficient services to meet the needs of city’s rough sleepers.

A recommendation for councillors to agree says: “Because local services are able to meet demand for homelessness services at present, there is no need to open up empty buildings for rough sleepers, but if this situation was to change in future the council would consider all options, working alongside its partners, which could include opening empty buildings.”

Zoe Young, housing options and advice service manager, said: “Rough sleeping is the most visible sign of homelessness. There are many other people who are homeless in the city but are not sleeping on the streets. These people are often in temporary accommodation or living with family and friends. Some people who appear to be sleeping rough may be engaged in street activities such as crime, drinking or begging, but in fact have somewhere to stay.

“There has been a steady decrease in the number of people sleeping rough in Sheffield over the last few years. In 2013 Sheffield had 17 rough sleepers whereas in 2014 there were 10 and in 2015 there were 11.

“Of the 11 people sleeping rough in 2015/16 one person owned their own house but refused to return, two had no recourse to public funds and three others gave up their hostel beds because they preferred to sleep rough. We are confident that we know who is sleeping rough at any one time and we have mechanisms in place to identify people who find they are having to sleep on the streets.”

The report said regular meetings involving the council and police take place to discuss the situation of each rough sleeper, while in winter weather when temperatures drop below freezing, rough sleepers are provide with accommodation.

It added: “The people of Sheffield can be reassured that there is provision and support for rough sleepers in the city.”

n ‘Homes will no longer be affordable’ - see page 10.