Dozens of homeless tent dwellers in the city centre now have a roof over their heads, the council has announced as Milton Keynes’ tent city shrinks from 77 tents to 14.
At the peak of Milton Keynes’ ‘tent city’ crisis last summer, there were 130 people sleeping rough and 65 tents pitched in underpasses, streets and bushes.
Today there are 14 tents and around 47 people living on the streets , said Labour cabinet member for housing, councillor Nigel Long.
He said the first priority had been the most vulnerable people - many of whom turned out to be former soldiers or service personnel.
“Good progress has been made. It has been achieved by close working with the voluntary sector and by supporting the most vulnerable rough sleepers with care and support as well as housing.”
Nigel added: “Many of the most vulnerable are ex-service personnel and have mental health or drug and alcohol challenges. The aim is for care and support to help them become independent and sustain permanent accommodation.”
The council is now partnering with a private agency called Connection Support to launch a new Housing First Service with the aim of wiping out rough sleeping completely.
The service will provide one-to-one support to people entrenched in rough sleeping, helping them into their own accommodation and make changes in their lifestyle to improve the quality of their lives, said Nigel.
It will help homeless people develop independent living skills and, working with Adult Social Care and other agencies, will aim to meet the needs of people with complex conditions and behaviours such as mental health, physical illness, learning disability, and substance misuse or relationship issues.
Assessments for Housing First will be made via the Homelessness Prevention Team and can be signposted by other agencies/services such as outreach workers, Open Door and other homeless charities.
Nigel said: “We are pleased that we have seen 77 people rehoused and the number of tents reduced to 14. But the key is ensuring that vulnerable people get the proper care and support to ensure they can sustain their home and become full citizens again, so tents and rough sleeping will become yesterday’s challenge. ”
He added, “We have worked closely with the voluntary sector to make progress on rough sleeping especially the local homelessness partnership, Open Door and the Winter Night Shelter.
“Now we are passing part of the day to day work with rough sleepers to a high quality, independent partner called Connection Support. They have the expertise and the track record to help even more rough sleepers off the street.
“Our long term aim is to completely end rough sleeping and to do that in a practical and compassionate way, not through force or short term measures.
“But we will end rough sleeping.”