Lewisham Council Announces New Strategy to Tackle Homelessness and Rough Sleeping

August 3, 2023

Lewisham Council recently announced its comprehensive and proactive strategy to tackle the ongoing issues of homelessness and rough sleeping in the borough. This announcement came directly from Cllr Sophie Davis, the Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness.

Despite facing significant cuts to their budget over the last 13 years, Lewisham Council has persevered in its commitment to support those in dire need. This unwavering dedication has resulted in aid provided to over 3,000 households grappling with homelessness in the past year alone.

The escalating housing crisis, coupled with the cost of living surge, has intensified the risk of homelessness for many people. These concerning trends make it imperative for the Council to continue working tirelessly to prevent and mitigate homelessness and rough sleeping.

The newly approved Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy for Lewisham lays out a concrete plan to address these pressing issues within the borough. The strategic blueprint for 2023-26 incorporates lessons learned from past efforts and adjusts the existing plan in light of the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on homelessness and rough sleeping.

Critical to the development of this strategy has been the invaluable input from those who know the situation best – people within the borough who have personally experienced homelessness. Their insights, combined with the expertise of community organisations and charities that assist homeless households and rough sleepers, have greatly informed the strategy’s design and focus.

At the heart of the strategy is a robust commitment to homelessness prevention. This is to be achieved by supporting individuals in maintaining their current accommodations or finding alternative suitable housing. In the quest to provide comprehensive assistance, the Council pledges to ensure that those at risk of homelessness can easily access advice and support services. This will involve strategic partnerships with other public sector organisations and local services to connect individuals to the Council when they need help the most.

Recognising the financial struggles many residents face, the Council will continue to help those grappling with rent arrears by providing them with financial support and intervening on their behalf when threatened with illegal evictions.

One of the primary barriers to combating homelessness is the lack of available and affordable alternative accommodation. To address this, the Council is taking decisive action to increase the supply of affordable homes. This includes initiatives to build new council homes for local families, bring empty properties back into use for homeless households, and increase the supply of temporary accommodation for families who find themselves suddenly without a home.

Despite the encouraging decrease in rough sleeping in Lewisham in recent years, the Council remains steadfast in its belief that no individual should be forced to sleep on the streets. To assist those who find themselves in this desperate situation, the Council plans to strengthen their collaboration with local health services to ensure these individuals receive the support they need.

As rough sleepers often grapple with complex physical and mental health needs, or struggle with substance misuse, this tailored support can be a lifeline. Additionally, assistance will be provided to rough sleepers with unclear immigration status, ensuring they can access support and find accommodation. The Council also plans to review existing provisions for women sleeping rough, ensuring their unique needs are met.

One cornerstone of the new strategy is the emphasis on partnerships. Tackling homelessness effectively requires a multi-faceted, collaborative approach that mobilises all public services. In this vein, the Council will strive for seamless collaboration among all its services, further building on existing partnerships with borough-wide organisations, including charities and other public services.

This comprehensive strategy underscores Lewisham Council’s unwavering commitment to preventing homelessness and reducing rough sleeping. It provides the roadmap for achieving their ultimate goal of ensuring everyone in the borough has a safe, secure place to call home.

Read their Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2023-2026 in full