In Dacorum, preventing and tackling homelessness is more than addressing people's housing situations. It is about helping them to achieve their full potential and to live a quality life.
This commitment was demonstrated in April when we became the first local authority in Hertfordshire and the Eastern Region to win the National Practitioner Support Service (NPSS) Gold Standard for its work in preventing homelessness in the borough.
With only 13 other local authorities in the country holding the gold standard we met a number of essential commitments to achieve the award.
Watch our video to see the help that is on offer to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the borough.
Gold standard for our Strategic Housing team
To be named as the first local authority in Hertfordshire and the Eastern Region and only the 13th in the country is an achievement our Strategic Housing team is rightfully proud of.
The award recognises the work of the team in preventing homelessness in the borough and its vision to create a borough where homelessness is not an option. Working together with partner organisations, we strive to help every person that is homeless or at risk of homelessness to gain the right skills and support to improve their lives and ‘get back on track’.
Strategic Housing Group Manager, Natasha Beresford, said: “To some people the word homeless means someone sleeping rough on the street, but it’s a much more complex issue than that. Homelessness can affect families, people living in private rented accommodation who are at risk of losing their home and victims of abuse.
"Each month we see around 200 new residents who are experiencing housing difficulty. We are committed to working in partnership to effectively prevent and tackle all elements of homelessness. Leading a borough wide Homelessness Forum, we create the opportunity to discuss issues which cross-cut all sectors with our partners. We have also engaged with MP Mike Penning regarding local homelessness and gained his support to tackle local issues.”
To achieve the NPSS gold standard the housing team met the 10 standards set out by the NPSS, which included delivering a proactive homeless strategy and working to eradicate rough sleeping through the successful ‘No Second Night Out’ campaign. We also provide dedicated accommodation for homeless people through the Elms, the day-to-day running of which is managed by Dacorum Emergency Night Shelter (DENS).
The team work closely with the private rented housing sector, providing support to tenants and guidance to landlords on their legal obligations - helping to maintain successful tenancies.
We also work to reduce the affect of homelessness on young people and families and are committed to not placing any family or young person into bed and breakfast accommodation, or out-of-area accommodation - there have been no such placements since June 2016. The team also ensures that temporary accommodation is maintained to a decent homes standard and provides education and awareness sessions to ensure that wherever possible they are intervening early to prevent homelessness.
With growing concern about the increase in domestic abuse in the area, we have worked closely with local organisations and housing providers to make sure that vital support is provided to victims of abuse. This has resulted in a new women’s refuge service, Dacorum Safe Haven (run by Hightown Housing Association and funded by Dacorum Borough Council), which has opened for women and families across the borough.
Cllr Margaret Griffiths, Portfolio Holder for Housing at Dacorum Borough Council, said she was proud of the achievements of the Strategic Housing team. “The team has shown drive and commitment to deliver excellent housing options to residents and reduce homelessness in the borough. To be named as the first local authority in the county and the Eastern Region to receive this award is an outstanding achievement.”
The Elms – giving hope to the homeless
A major factor in the gold award was our commitment to our No Second Night Out Policy, which aims to ensure that no homeless person spends a second night sleeping rough.
The Elms, managed on our behalf by DENS, provides key community facilities for single homeless people in the Dacorum area.
In 2017, 147 people moved into The Elms, 72 of which had a positive 'moving on' outcome. The facilities include 44 bed spaces, and 'crashpad' facilities for use in cold weather.
Natasha Beresford said: “It's important that all incidences of rough sleeping are reported to us so that we can take quick action to help the individuals and provide advice, support and offer access to emergency accommodation, whilst further housing options are considered. Officers regularly patrol the local areas, particularly in severe weather periods, with the support of local voluntary organisations to provide support to rough sleepers.
To see our No Second Night out Policy, or to report concerns about a rough sleeper, please our Rough sleepers page.