Published Monday, 14th December 2020

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council continues its proactive approach to tackling homelessness this winter despite the challenges of Covid-19.

Sleeping rough is dangerous and difficult at the best of times but exposes people to additional risks during the winter months. This year the pandemic has put additional pressures on traditional emergency accommodation. Winter night shelters, such as the one run by local charity Renewed Hope and supported by the Council, offer dormitory style accommodation and are therefore unable to operate due to Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place to support social distancing.

To make sure it can offer a safe place to local people who need one, the Council has continued to block book beds in local B&Bs for emergency accommodation.

The eight accommodation cabins installed by the Council in its Donyngs Leisure Centre car park in April continue to be used by homeless people that need to self-isolate or quarantine.

Following a successful bid for grant funding, the Council has received £148,765 from the Government to help towards the additional costs created by Covid-19 and the need to find alternative emergency accommodation to a night shelter this winter.

Supporting rough sleepers

There are many reasons why people find themselves without a safe place they can call home. If anyone is concerned about someone they believe to be sleeping rough, the Council is asking them to report this to online or by phone 0300 500 091 and this will alert our outreach service directly and trigger a visit to assist them. If the person is thought to be under 18, they are advised to contact the police instead on 101.

Our East Surrey Outreach Service (ESOS) works with people sleeping rough and provides support to those in danger of losing their home across the four district councils in the east Surrey area – Reigate & Banstead, Tandridge, Mole Valley and Epsom & Ewell.

Cllr Graham Knight, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Support said: “We understand that every homeless situation is unique and housing staff work with everyone we place in emergency accommodation to find a permanent solution to their housing needs. Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes our support, although we will continue to provide any help and services where we can and our doors are always open.” 

Council housing staff follow up every emergency placement with a welfare offer that includes access to medical services, benefits, food and regular weekly welfare calls. Every placement also has a Personal Housing Plan agreed which covers their options to move on with assistance to more secure alternative accommodation.

Since the start of the pandemic we have accommodated 144 homeless households in emergency accommodation, of which 94 were single people either rough sleeping or at threat of homelessness. So far, we have rehoused 105 of them. Others have either refused assistance, lost contact or we are still accommodating and working with them.