Advice available to help rough sleepers in St Albans

A homeless person on St Peter's Street, St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO

A homeless person on St Peter's Street, St Albans. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Advice is being offered on how to help rough sleepers on the streets of St Albans.

An information leaflet entitled ‘Concerned about a rough sleeper?’ has been produced by St Albans district council and contains practical advice on what to do if you have seen a rough sleeper in the street.

The booklet explains in a question-and-answer format what is being done for rough sleepers by the council and voluntary organisations, including Open Door, Centre33 and Emmaus, as well as Hightown Housing Association, the Cathedral and St Albans Community Mental Health Team.

Among other activities, the council and Open Door fund outreach workers who talk to rough sleepers to ensure they are aware of the help on offer and to encourage them to take it up. The leaflet also highlights the extra beds which are made available in St Albans during severe weather.

However, some rough sleepers choose to remain on the streets, usually for complex reasons. Open Door, for example, does not allow people to stay in its shelter if they are clearly under the influence of drink or illegal drugs.

One night in November last year the council carried out an annual count of rough sleepers in the district, estimating there were 11 in total.

There were five found in 2017, 13 in 2016, 19 in 2015 and 11 in 2014.

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The figures must be obtained every year and submitted to the Government.

Cllr Brian Ellis, portfolio holder for housing and inclusion, said: “The leaflet offers practical advice to people who are troubled by the sight of a rough sleeper and want to do something.

“It tells them how they can refer someone for help and lists the contact details of a number of appropriate groups.

“I hope it will make people aware that the council, together with other organisations, is working hard behind the scenes to help rough sleepers and put them on a new pathway.

“I would also urge people who want to help to consider volunteering to work with one of the charities that is active on this issue or make a regular donation.”

The leaflet has been distributed to different points around the district, including libraries and other public buildings, and is also available online on the council’s website.