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Monday, June 17, 2024

City leaders approve grant funding to support ‘homeless drop-in service’ on Wearside

City leaders have approved grant funding to help support a key ‘homeless drop-in service’ on Wearside.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet of senior councillors, at a meeting this week, gave the green light to funding to help safeguard a charity-led scheme supporting city residents.

The grant funding for the 2024/25 financial year will go to the registered charity Oasis Aquila Housing (OAH), which trades as Oasis Community Housing.

According to a report presented to senior councillors, the charity provides housing and support to an estimated 300 people in Sunderland.

Its Basis Sunderland Homeless Drop-in Centre currently operates from Park Road Church, near Sunderland city centre, and is understood to open on weekdays providing relief to those in need.

This can include access to shower and laundry facilities, free food and refreshments and access to a ‘shoe and clothes bank’, with the centre being free to access.

The OAH team also provides practical support with access to phones and ICT, help with housing applications and benefits advice, and a safe place where people can store their belongings.

A cabinet report stated that following a “reduction in donations” Oasis Aquila Housing had advised that they would “no longer be able to continue to support and deliver the service”.

Sunderland City Council identified the drop-in scheme as a “valuable service in response to those homeless and sleeping rough” and has stepped in to provide support.

Grant funding agreed this week aims to “ensure a continued and extended homeless drop-in service up until 31 March 2025 (up to 5pm)”.

The grant funding needed to “provide continuation of services at the homeless drop-in” for the 2024/25 financial year is a total of £113,758.

Senior councillors agreed on the grant funding award for the service at a cabinet meeting at City Hall on 31 January 2024.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, cabinet member for Dynamic City, said: “The provision of a homeless drop-in service within the city has been identified as a valuable service in response to those homeless and sleeping rough.

“The homelessness health needs assessment identified the homeless drop-in as a key point of service access and support for those homeless and was highlighted to support their well-being.

“The provision and support for the homeless drop-in supports the wider homelessness reduction and sleeping rough strategy and approved action plan.

“As we see the ongoing national crisis, with the rising number of people who present themselves homeless and the temporary accommodation costs attached, and trying to find the appropriate housing, tackling homelessness in Sunderland is a key priority for this council as we continue to support people who can begin their journey out of homelessness”.

Oasis Aquila Housing is understood to work with a range of partners in the delivery of its services.

This includes local community groups and churches, the council’s housing options team, Wear Recovery, Shelter and the Probation Service.

Grant funding for the homeless drop-in service will be met from funding available within Sunderland City Council’s public health grant.

A report to senior councillors also outlined the alternative options that had been considered, but discounted, for the drop-in service.

The council report added: “The option of Oasis Aquila Housing reducing its opening hours and days opening was considered to align with available secured funding through its charitable donation activity.

“However due to the growing demands on homelessness services, this reduction in service was discounted and the provision of grant funding was seen as the most appropriate way forward to meet the service needs in the city”.

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