Letter to the Chichester Observer
I was sorry to read Chris Shimwell’s report of an Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Chichester District Council meeting, where it was suggested that Stonepillow was not meeting the needs of homeless people in West Sussex.
Stonepillow provides a lifeline to homeless people in the Chichester, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton areas with day hubs, access to medical treatment, hostels and supported accommodation. 208 people have accessed these services in the last year and 108 people have moved on to 'long term' accommodation. Recently a new facility of 5 en-suite bedrooms was opened in conjunction with St Richard’s Hospital to house homeless people discharged from hospital.
Unfortunately, two years ago, Stonepillow lost its contract to provide an ‘out of hours’ service scanning the streets and bringing support directly to people whose preferred lifestyle is to remain sleeping rough. The local authorities in East and West Sussex decided to award this contract to St Mungo’s Broadway. Their remit is to direct people from Chichester and Arun to hostel accommodation or provide them with ‘alternative’ solutions. This is not as effective a solution as that provided by Stonepillow because the charity is not locally based and has scarce resources in this area.
It is worth noting that the majority of Rough Sleepers are homeless people that CDC assess as intentionally homeless for a variety of reasons and therefore deem not to have a duty to house. Some are assessed as less vulnerable than others and put on a list, sometimes for up to 2 years. Therefore individuals can find themselves in an extremely vulnerable position with no other option than to live on the streets or possibly find accommodation in Stonepillow’s own supported stock of shared homes or access to private rental property with support for their rent in advance.
Options for the homeless start with direct, emergency access to our Hostels, clients can then move on to various other shared accommodation that we supply, staff and fund ourselves. This is made possible through a combination of West Sussex County grants and community fundraising. We then enable them to become healthy, gain confidence and learn new skills at our Social Enterprise, Stonepillow Restore, where they can engage in work experience which helps them to recover and become independent citizens again.
The issue of local connection is a very important one, but should never humanly stop anyone from providing safety and practical help to people who find themselves rough sleeping in any area. We ‘reconnect’ people to their area when appropriate and humanly possible but when the aim is to ‘protect and support’ people, reconnection to an area where a life of crime or/and violence is waiting for them is simply not the long-term solution.
We urge Chichester District Council to work with Stonepillow for the long term and be grateful that the Charity continues to add value to the community they serve in a very efficient and effective way.
Chair of Stonepillow Trustees