Long-term national funding is needed for work to reduce rough sleeping in Hastings, council leaders say.
On Monday (April 8), Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet approved funding for a series of projects designed to address rough sleeping within the town and the surrounding area.
The projects, which are largely funded through central government grants, each aim to reduce rough sleeping by providing specialised individual support to get rough sleepers into suitable long-term housing.
Cabinet members, however, were cautious over the long term future of the projects funding from central government.
Lead member for housing Andy Batsford said: “All of this is short term funding.
“You cannot put together a genuine product that is going to support people year on year when we don’t know what we are going to get until the deadline is coming.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see that when you strip away services – the services the county council offered, we offered and community groups offered – year after year, then you end up with a crisis on our streets.
“With the services we have got I do believe that everybody has got somewhere to go and some service that could help them. But within half a year I do believe we may be looking down the barrel of no funding again.”
Cabinet members approved spending £824,000 to continue the joint Hastings and Eastbourne Rough Sleeping Initiative through to the end of 2019/20, with the lion’s share coming from an £800,000 central government grant.
Cabinet members also signed off on plans to commission the Southdown Housing Association to run a ‘rapid rehousing project’ for rough sleepers.
The project is to be funded through a £310,000 grant, which the council received from Government after leading a successful bid on behalf of Eastbourne, Rother, Lewes and Wealden councils.
As part of this project, cabinet members also agreed to reallocate £10,000 from the council’s flexible homelessness support grant, which will be used to pay for temporary accommodation and rental deposits.
With the majority of the projects’ funding coming from central government, concerns were raised about how the work could continue should the grants dry up.
Rob Lee, leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “I actually agree with Cllr Batsford when he said there is an element of the short term with this project.
“There are great concerns not only among us but among our officers and service users as well. You don’t know what is going to come from central government and that is a risk for this project.
“Would it not be wise to build on the good work this money from central government is giving us so that – once this grant is spent – we would be able to continue at least many elements of it.
“Can we not prioritise this above other elements of working in the council?”
In response, officers said the project would provide long term benefits even if the funding were to dry up.
Officers said these benefits would include learning what elements of the project could be continued within the council’s own budget constraints.
The council would also benefit from the building of relationships with private landlords and housing associations who take in rough sleepers during the project, officers said.
However council leader Peter Chowney (Lab) argued the government had a responsibility to provide funding to continue these projects.
He said: “This is a reflection of a much bigger national problem.
“In the longer term the government has got to come up with the funding to keep dealing with this.
“If they are going to keep coming to Hastings then we need to make sure the government keeps funding that.
“I don’t think it is reasonable for Hastings to have to find the money by cutting other services to deal with a problem which is being caused nationally.”