With over 50 years’ experience providing a wide range of frontline homelessness and housing services across London and the south of England, St Mungo’s works with individuals throughout all stages of homelessness. For people with a history of sleeping rough, the move from supported accommodation to independent housing can often be a challenging step. Without the right accommodation and support available, sometimes individuals can end up returning to the streets.
To break this cycle St Mungo’s has developed a model of housing acquisition and management with an experienced support team in place to help people move from the homelessness pathways system into their own self-contained accommodation. With good quality, affordable, move-on accommodation alongside sustained 1-2-1 support, residents will be able to build the skills they need to not only maintain their tenancy, but to thrive in their new home eventually accessing fully independent housing.
With teams based in cities and towns across the south of England and an infrastructure of support functions providing specialist expertise – in areas such as property and asset management, recruitment and data security – St Mungo’s is able to deliver services at scale with the local knowledge and existing partnerships ensuring that these projects can move quickly and are the right fit for their local communities. When the government announced the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) funding for 2020/21, St Mungo’s developed a number of proposals built on this central principle. In Bristol, working closely with Bristol City Council and Homes England, a bid for funding to support the acquisition of a number self-contained units of accommodation was successfully developed.
On 24 May the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced the Next Steps Accommodation Programme funding, part of their COVID-19 Rough Sleeping response, for both short and longer term support for people with a history of sleeping rough or those who were made vulnerable to rough sleeping by the pandemic.
As part of NSAP, over £150 million was announced to deliver 3,300 units of longer-term, move on accommodation within 20/21. As well as capital funding, organisations could also apply for revenue funding to provide support for people moving into the accommodation.
With the Everyone In initiative seeing thousands of people being supported away from sleeping rough into hotel accommodation, the NSAP funding would allow the sector to find long term housing solutions ensuring the move into emergency accommodation was just the first step towards a safe and secure home, rather than a temporary measure.
‘The NSAP is funded by the MHCLG and managed by Homes England (with the exception of London where the GLA managed the funding). In Bristol this was allocated via Bristol City Council, who also managed the revenue funding stream.
Whilst partnership working has always been central to the way that St Mungo’s plans and delivers homelessness and housing services, the Covid-19 emergency response showed what could be achieved when all parties work together with a genuinely collaborative approach.
St Mungo’s works closely with the MHCLG at both a national and regional level resulting in valuable and aligned partnership working across a number of areas, including policy discussions, service developments and capital projects. At a national level, St Mungo’s and Homes England have a strong relationship supported by a shared approach towards strategic planning focussed on long term housing solutions around homelessness.
In Bristol, St Mungo’s has worked alongside Bristol City Council for over ten years, delivering a number of commissioned homelessness services alongside a number of other housing projects. Shared values and a strong working history formed the basis of a collaborative emergency response that, so far, has seen 546 people supported into emergency hotel accommodation in the city during the pandemic.
St Mungo’s worked closely with Bristol City Council developing a bid for NSAP funding that would lead to property acquisition to ultimately benefit the city. With rapidly increasing house prices, the private rented sector in Bristol is inaccessible to the vast majority of clients using homelessness services and, as a result, Bristol City Council is working to increase availability of affordable accommodation. St Mungo’s NSAP bid proposal supported this strategy, with a plan to purchase good quality housing that would be both affordable and accessible, providing a long
term asset available for people in the city.
Homes England, working with the local authority, administer the NSAP funding for capital and revenue applications. As St Mungo’s would be leading on all the decisions around purchasing the properties, the NSAP bid included documentation to demonstrate the knowledge and resources in place to ensure that only good quality, value for money accommodation would be acquired in line with a robust set of property specifications.
In a unique position to be able to both purchase property and provide experienced support teams for the accommodation, St Mungo’s were able to move quickly once they were awarded the NSAP funding. The St Mungo’s Properties and Acquisition team had a number of properties of interest in Bristol that had already met the criteria for purchase.
With our Bristol-based staff, the team were able to begin the purchase process immediately whilst regional and national service teams could start modelling the support aspect of the project. A property in east Bristol comprising 11 self-contained units of accommodation, made up of 1 and 2 bedroom flats, was identified and
assessed against the St Mungo’s property criteria. The funding was allocated in November 2020 and the property purchase was completed in December 2020.
With a further 10 individual accommodation units currently in the process of being purchased before the end of the financial year, the first round of NSAP funding will have supported St Mungo’s to buy a total of 21 units of self-contained accommodation in Bristol.
Whilst the properties were being purchased, the St Mungo’s Move On Housing Services team worked closely with Bristol City Council to develop a support model for individuals moving into the accommodation. The St Mungo’s team will provide ‘floating support’ with staff members visiting the accommodation once a week, as well as opportunities for clients to arrange individual appointments at the local St Mungo’s office. The support team will focus on preparing clients to move into the private rented sector, building skills such as budgeting and understanding tenancy responsibilities.
With continued support from Homes England, St Mungo’s will be able to expand this vital offer, increasing Bristol’s availability of good quality, secure housing for people that cannot access accommodation in the private rental sector. With expert support from St Mungo’s teams, the NSAP properties will have a huge impact on the lives of the people that live in them. It is only by offering long term stability to people, alongside the skills needed to live independently, that the cycle of homelessness can be broken.
Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Housing and Rough Sleeping said: “Looking back at an incredibly challenging twelve months, everyone who has helped protect rough sleepers, including St Mungo’s and other councils, charities, housing providers and support groups, should be immensely proud of the role they have played in our internationally recognised response.
“This programme plays a vital role in maintaining this progress, with long-term, secure homes providing a safe place to live so that rough sleepers do not have to return to our streets.”
Homes England said: “Through MHCLG’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme, we’ve supported local councils to fast-track long term, move-on accommodation, creating homes for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“St Mungo’s and Bristol City Council’s work to provide homes for 21 local people is a brilliant example of the tangible impact of this programme. Through our continued partnership, we hope to make this a reality for even more members of the local community.”
Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Homes, Bristol City Council, said: “The pandemic gave us an opportunity to get a lot of people off the streets, and now we need to help them move on to the next stage of their journey.
“This is a much needed alternative housing solution for people who do not need the level of intense support provided in supported housing, yet currently need a bit of a wrap-around support to help them gain the skills and confidence needed to maintain a tenancy and a home.
“We are really pleased to be working in partnership with St Mungo’s, United Communities and Solon Housing to provide these new homes, as tackling an issue like homelessness cannot be done by one organisation alone. We all need to work together and continue to come up with new solutions to help support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Nicki Doran, Senior Move On Housing Manager at St Mungo’s, said: “We’re really excited to shortly launch the new NSAP programme in Bristol and to expand Move On Housing Services in a new area.
“This project will provide essential support and accommodation to those in need of a stepping stone towards fully independent housing.
“We have been working closely with Bristol City Council to ensure that the referral and support elements of the project are tailored to the specific needs of the client group so that there is consistency across the board from all NSAP providers. This collaborative approach has enabled us to pull on knowledge and learnings, across both the organisation and sector, in a bid to secure successful outcomes for our clients.”