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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

How to end chronic street homelessness


Croydon has the eighth highest number of people sleeping rough in the UK - and that number is rising. We spoke to Evolve Housing + Support to find out how its new CR Zero 2020 campaign is helping.

Image of dark street Can you tell us about the CR Zero 2020 campaign?

CR Zero 2020 is a campaign led by Evolve Housing + Support with Crisis, Expert Link, Homeless Link and Thames Reach, to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020.

CR Zero 2020 is part of the 'European End street homelessness campaign', created by the Building and Social Housing Foundation, to end the cycle of long-term chronic street homelessness. The campaign, currently in its pilot stage, involves a number of cities across Europe, with plans to grow more widely.

Some of the key principles of the campaign are to review current local processes to make them more effective at working with complex rough sleepers, and to pilot ‘Housing first’ – using housing as a starting point rather than an end goal – as one of the possible new solutions for rough sleepers with complex needs.

Croydon has been chosen, along with Westminster, as one of two London boroughs to pilot the campaign in the UK.  Over 100 volunteers have already surveyed 42 rough sleepers on the streets of Croydon to get to know them, and understand their needs.  The results of the survey will drive our next steps to finding a solution to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020.

Why is it important to get everyone, including the community, involved?

Rough sleeping affects the entire community. It affects the person sleeping rough more acutely, but it affects the person who feels intimidated on their street, the person who feels upset when they see someone in need and don’t know how to respond, the businesses who want the environment they operate in to be one that attracts customers, or the statutory services which are put under increased pressure because of the health and crime impacts of rough sleeping.

We want individual citizens, people who have experienced rough sleeping, businesses, housing developers, housing associations, statutory agencies, voluntary agencies, anyone who has ideas, time, resources, expertise, accommodation, good old hard cash, or just a desire to help, to bring it to the table and work together to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020.

Can you tell us a bit more about how solutions might be implemented? 

We are sending an open invitation for people to join us and be part of a community solutions focus group, and to work with us to identify what potential solutions there are. That could be challenging existing services to work in different ways, or the development of brand new services and service models.

We need more social housing in London in general, and Croydon is no exception. The first step is for Evolve Housing + Support to build more of our own affordable housing, and to commit to making units available to contribute to end chronic rough sleeping in Croydon by 2020. But we also need to work with other housing associations and private property developers, and get a similar commitment from them.

What are the biggest challenges to ending homelessness in Croydon?

The existing model of supported accommodation in the UK, while effective, has a number of features that could be reviewed to further improve our ability to work effectively with chronic and complex rough sleepers.

The model is based on conditionality; someone must be prepared to accept and engage in support to have access to the accommodation. This only works if someone is at a point in their lives where they accept the need for change at the same point that they are in housing need. While this is the case for the majority of our customers, there will always be people who are not, and in our experience, these are normally the more complex customers.

This conditionality is further compounded by the structure of our existing funding for support services. Time limited support means that people are required to engage and achieve a set of outcomes within a prescribed period of time. Those who are not able to engage at that point are either not accepted into the service, or end up being evicted due to non-engagement, meaning that the complexity of their needs actually causes their homelessness.

What can other areas learn from what you’re doing in Croydon?

As part of the pilot phase of the 'European End street homelessness campaign', what we learn, and what we achieve, will be used to encourage other cities to sign up, and support them in achieving the objective of ending chronic rough sleeping in their cities. As an outer-city borough, our insights from this campaign in Croydon will be directly transferable to other cities across the country looking to end chronic rough sleeping.

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