Rough sleeper provision in Bedford has improved 'by leaps and bounds'

Rogers Court is a new facility of self-contained accommodation for rough sleepers

Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:36 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:41 pm

Rough sleeper provision has moved on by leaps and bounds over the last few years, a meeting heard.

Anita McCallum, SMART CEO, and Jen Robus, area manager for homelessness services, gave an overview of Rogers Court to Bedford Borough Council’s Housing Committee on Wednesday, November 3.

Rogers Court is a new facility of self-contained accommodation for those rough sleeping, or at risk of doing so, and opened fully in September.

From left, Lee Phanco (Bedford Borough Council), Ben Salisbury (Kier), Mayor Dave Hodgson (Bedford Borough Council), Shaun Hodgkin (Kier), Anita McCallum (SMART CJS), Stephen Fletcher (Bedford Borough Council) and Jen Robus (SMART CJS) outside the new Rogers Court facility

Residents will be eligible to stay for up to two years, but most will progress before then to more permanent housing options.

The building is run by SMART, a charity that works alongside people affected by drug and alcohol use, and those who find themselves homeless.

Anita McCallum started by reminding the committee of the rough sleeper provision in 2018. She said: “We were looking at shared airspace, we were looking at big halls, we were looking at camp beds, and that was what rough sleeper provision was.

“We have moved on leaps and bounds, it’s just taken a pandemic and a change in government policy to see this happen,” she added.

There are currently 20 residents staying in 19 flats (one flat is occupied by a couple) and the final flat is due to be occupied in a few weeks.

Jen Robus said: “Rogers Court has been a ground-breaking project for us to be delivering and is already seeing some fantastic, albeit small, outcomes with some of the residents there.

“We have one resident who is a long-term drug user, they are now having conversations with us about wanting to reduce the harm associated with the drug use, and wanting to engage with services,” she said.

In another example given to the committee, a resident who had never lived alone and had never cooked a meal before, can now cook fresh meals following some cooking lessons.

Ms Robus added that there are partners, such as drug and alcohol services, a GP surgery and a clinic, on hand to help with the issues the residents are facing.

“Rogers Court is staffed 24/7, so we can have engagement at any time of day or night. If somebody suddenly decides at 2am they want to have a meaningful conversation and to discuss where they’re heading and how they want to engage, then we can absolutely do that,” she said.

“We’re really trying to make sure that our person-centred approach is adapted for all individuals and is there a time when they need it, and not what services deem is necessary.

“One resident is making such good progress that they are now starting to talk about moving on, and moving out from Rogers Court already.

“It’s an early stage, but within the next couple of months we hope that we can find an accommodation solution that will suit him,” she said.

Councillor Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur Ward), the committee’s chair, said: “It is important it is to have the right accommodation, the right facilities, the right service, and the right people.

“It is clear that you are the right people to be making it all happen, and the success stories that you’ve already been able to illustrate just shows how worthwhile all the preparation, all the thought, and all the worries that went into Rogers Court are – it is starting to show rewards.”