Rough sleepers across the North East will have increased access to accommodation, thanks to successful funding bids by Durham County Council.
Sites will be established in the region to give those who are homeless interim places to stay and a lettings agency established for County Durham, after the government agreed to provide more than £800,000 in funding.
The council oversaw an application on behalf of ten local authorities around the North East to the Rapid Rehousing Pathway fund, which helps rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, access the support and settled housing they need to leave the streets for good.
The fund has given £628,420 for the establishment of an assessment centre split across two hubs in the region – at Durham and Gateshead. These will give rough sleepers immediate access to somewhere safe to stay while suitable housing is identified.
The funding also allows for tenancy support to be provided once housing is secured. This will help vulnerable people maintain their tenancy through regular visits and assistance with bills, cleaning and establishing the tenancy.
In addition to the regional funding, the council also applied to the fund for money to establish a lettings agency for County Durham. Funding of £242,498 has been given for the agency which will help secure housing for homeless people.
Cllr Kevin Shaw, the council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “We are delighted that these bids for Rapid Rehousing Pathway funding have been successful.
“Historically councils in our region have worked independently to support homeless people however we know that rough sleepers are transient and access services provided by different local authorities.
“The success of the joint bid will allow us to take a regional approach to homelessness for the first time.”
The authority led the regional application on behalf of itself and Stockton Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Darlington Borough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Council, Gateshead Council, Sunderland City Council, South Tyneside Council, and North Tyneside Council.
The two hubs will each be open seven days a week as an out of hours service from 10pm to 7am. Each will be able to accommodate six rough sleepers with the Durham site expected to house 400 in 2019/20 and the Gateshead site 120. The facilities would be open to people from any of the 12 North East council areas.
It is estimated the two sites will carry out 1,100 needs assessments between them in 2019/20.
The Durham hub will be based at Changing Lives, a local charity which is currently commissioned to run supported accommodation to vulnerable men and women.
Housing which is let through the County Durham agency will be sourced via private landlords on a leasehold scheme and over the longer term it will develop its own stock via applications for funding to Homes England and use of money from agreements linked to planning approvals.
It is estimated that the agency would result in 70 additional tenancies per year.