Successful homeless work attracts ministerial attention

The Government’s Housing Minister was in Stafford to learn about the successful programme tackling homelessness and rough sleeping in the borough.

And as part of the visit, Heather Wheeler, MP, the Minster for Housing and Homelessness was shown around Staffordshire Women’s Aid refuge which has received national acclaim for its unique features which have helped support victims of domestic violence.

Stafford Borough Council was the first in the Midlands to reach the Government’s gold standard for work preventing homelessness and was singled out for praise in the House of Lords for its initiatives that saw rough sleeping halved over 12 months.

They included the introduction of a ‘Community Matron,’ dubbed the angel of Stafford by rough sleepers, and ‘Housing First’ – a project that places homeless people into permanent accommodation and then provides a programme of support to help them get their lives back on track.

During the whistle stop tour, the Minister found out more about the initiatives and met key members of staff from the local authority, Midland Heart, the Mental Health Trust and the Police, including visiting Eagle House, which has been instrumental in delivering the new ‘Housing First’ project.

Eagle House is run by Midland Heart – a non-profit making registered housing provider – and offers temporary accommodation for single people faced with homelessness.

At the weekend the minister announced the refuge – ForWard House – would receive more than £100,000 from the government to help improve the mental health support for victims of domestic abuse. The refuge opened its doors in 2016 and has a balance of self contained apartments alongside community areas. The design enables large families to be housed – including older male children and families with complex needs and is fully accessible for disabled women and children.

The minister said:

“It is an amazing centre where women can rebuild their lives. But none of this happens without partnership working, and the community attitude towards enabling this facility has been outstanding.”

The minister is the second high profile name this year to spend time finding out more about the homeless work in Stafford – with Speaker of the House of Commons, The Rt Honourable John Bercow MP, paying a visit in March.

Councillor Jeremy Pert, Cabinet Member for Communities at the council, said:

“The minister was very interested to hear that rough sleeping in Stafford is not due to lack of accommodation. It is a very complex issue and the work we are doing with our partners, having identified every entrenched rough sleeper from Stafford Borough, is the reason we are attracting high profile visits.”

Councillor Pert also welcomed the £100,000 funding announced by the minister. He continued:

“The women’s refuge plays a key role in our community and this money is vital to ensure that the amazing support that it provides to the many victims of domestic violence can continue.  We are delighted that the refuge can still give victims of domestic violence that opportunity of a fresh start, in the journey from victim to survivor and we thank the Minister for coming to Stafford to deliver this hugely positive news personally.

“Mental health problems, are often the product of the abuse suffered by domestic violence victims, so this award will help speed their journey to recovery and it was pleasing to show the Minister first-hand the excellent work that is being done by Staffordshire Women’s Aid and the refuge in our county town and to showcase it as an exemplar of partnership working to support our residents.”