Camden Council has secured £870,000 of government funding to assist homeless people in the borough after a count of rough sleepers identified a more accurate picture of its street population.
The money, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), is the highest amount awarded for any individual local authority. Neighbouring Westminster Council will receive £534,466, Islington Council £265,987, and the Greater London Authority will also receive £3,300,000.
The funding for Camden will be used to employ more outreach workers, provide better support for people with complex needs, and invest in the Housing First service, provided by charity St Mungo’s, which delivers housing and tailored support to rough sleepers with a history of living on the streets. And recognising the number of women sleeping on the streets, the funding will provide for a co-ordinator to work specifically with female rough sleepers.
Official statistics state that Camden had a rough sleeper population of 127 in the autumn of 2017 — the first time an attempt had been made to properly measure its street population in recent years.
The figure drew headlines which said rough sleeping had gone up by 647 percent in a year.
Camden previously claimed there were only 17 rough sleepers in the whole of the borough in 2016, only 15 the year before, and just five people sleeping rough in 2015.
Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA), which publishes Fitzrovia News, criticised Camden for failing to admit to the true level of street homeless in the borough and carried out its own street counts to challenge the council on the statistics it was giving to central government. The FNA argued that without proper record keeping Camden was denying itself essential government funding to tackle the problem of street homelessness.
But until last year Camden was reluctant to mend its ways and actually bother to go out and count people on the pavements, most of them within 20 minutes walk of the Town Hall in Judd Street.
In February 2017, after hearing evidence from the FNA, a scrutiny committee of Camden Council agreed that “counting of rough sleepers was not adequate and there needed to be a method that reflected the real number on the streets”.
Councillor Nadia Shah, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “We are delighted to receive the additional funds from the MHCLG, not only as acknowledgement of the effective approach being taken to support rough sleepers in Camden but also as recognition of the commitment of our officers, working together across the council, to developing new ways of reaching more people and providing the support they need.
“We have seen the harm caused by increasing levels of rough sleeping in the borough in recent years and the increase in high risk street activity which impacts on our communities. The council is committed to tackling the long-term issue of rough sleeping and supporting vulnerable individuals who find themselves in this predicament.
“This funding makes it possible for us to not only grow but expand our outreach programme. It will also directly support the delivery of our Routes off The Street strategy, to ensure that rough sleepers in Camden receive a service offer which means they no longer have to sleep rough and can start rebuilding their lives away from the street,” she said in a statement.
Linus Rees is a director and trustee of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.