Lessons learnt from the success of supporting Wolverhampton’s homeless citizens during the coronavirus outbreak are to be used to formulate a long term plan to shape the service.

During the pandemic partners in the multi agency Homeless Operational Group have pooled their resources at one location - a city centre hotel - to safeguard individuals from the streets.

Since the crisis began more than 100 people either facing the threat of homelessness or who were rough sleeping have now been successfully moved on from the city’s emergency shelter into long-term safe, suitable, and sustainable accommodation.

The group, led by City of Wolverhampton Council’s Housing and Public Health teams, has also supported over 30 clients into treatment for substance misuse during the pandemic.

Evidence suggests different types of provision are required for the diverse clientele partners are supporting.

Consultation on how best to deliver the service in the future has therefore started with views and best-practice learning being gathered from residents, volunteers, staff and partners.

Initial feedback has highlighted several factors as being critical to the impressive level of support throughout the coronavirus crisis such as partners working from one location; the support of local business; good quality accommodation; an integrated partnership approach to holistic support delivery; personalised needs assessments and access to specialist intervention; strengthened pathways with treatment services; identification of a championing GP surgery; compassion and unity of community services; Temple, local businesses and charities supporting food distribution; embedding an ethos of respect and customer service in the group’s approach with residents; an enhanced rate of move-on to permanent accommodation based on personal needs; co-ordinated outreach support following move-on enabling tenancy sustainability, integration and resettlement; a matrix model of leadership led and co-ordinated by the council; an organic service delivery tailored to the individual needs of people who have accessed the service; and agile working practices adapting to challenges that arise.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, said: “On a recent visit I undertook to the hotel initial feedback from residents was exceptional. Now a more formal consultation with them will be carried out to assess why they felt the service was different to previous experiences and the reasons they felt it has worked for so many residents from very different backgrounds. This will be peer led, as it is felt that peer to peer conversations will enable unbiased and honest feedback.

“Many of those who are homeless have complex needs, including physical and mental health problems. Our Public Health and Housing teams’ partnership approach with homelessness organisations across the city is delivering positive results and the lessons learnt from this experience will play a major part in how we shape this service going forward. 

“We will continue to actively work with partner agencies to find longer-term solutions for preventing someone from becoming homeless in the first place.

“Nobody has to sleep outside in our city and nobody has to go hungry.”

Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, added: “The work during the coronavirus crisis has built on the collaborative, partnership working approach to services for homeless individuals and rough sleepers in Wolverhampton. 

“The positive relationships between partners at all levels have meant that residents receive the best service possible which is having real outcomes. 

“There have been many positive success stories with some residents, who are entrenched rough sleepers, engaging with services for the first time or after a long break.

“Working with partners, it is now important we build on this success to ensure we offer the best service possible to some of the most vulnerable people in our city.”

Operational group partners include: Wolverhampton Homes, St George’s Hub, P3, Enterprise Homes Group (Night Shelter), Good Shepherd, Recovery Near You, RMC, Wolverhampton BID, Solace, Changing Lives, Police, A&E Security, Wolverhampton CCG, Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, food services (Good Shepherd, Outreach 4 Wolverhampton, Sant Ashram, Midland Langar, Helping Hands, Sedgley Street Sikh Gurdwara), Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, and Probation services.

For details on how to contact support services to help those experiencing rough sleeping, visit Rough sleepers.

People can also help the homeless and rough sleepers by donating money to the city’s Alternative Giving Campaign.