Who’s who: Islington’s rough sleeping chief slams short-term tenancies
PUBLISHED: 15:33 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:35 06 February 2019
Islington’ Council’s new permanent street sleeping chief Sarah Turley speaks to Lucas Cumiskey about austerity, Universal Credit and short term tenancies and the impact they are having
The woman leading efforts to end rough sleeping in Islington says austerity, benefit changes and short-term tenancies have a lot to answer for – but thinks pilots like the Hornsey Road Solidarity Shelter will help.
Islington’s street population coordinator, Sarah Turley, 35, has been working with communities of rough sleepers with complex needs for 14 years.
Last month the former Highbury Fields student’s role was made permanent by the council, though she had effectively been doing the same role for two years, helping 34 people get a roof over their head. She helped another two people off the street last week.
“I’m the point of contact for all outreach work in the borough,” she said. “We had one guy on Universal Credit but he can’t use a computer to access benefits, so needs a lot of support. Outreach teams don’t have time to do that.”
She said the council’s new no recourse to public funds officer has been a good idea because data collected from the street count in November, where 43 rough sleepers were accounted for, suggests half of Islington’s rough sleepers are non-UK nationals.
No recourse to public funds applies to foreign nationals living in the UK who are unable to “claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance paid for by the state”.
But there is a deep-running distrust between some rough sleepers and outreach agencies such as St Mungo’s which have historically cooperated with the Home Office’s immigration units. A spokesperson for the charity said the Information Commissioner “concluded [its] information rights practices [don’t] raise any concerns”.
“A lot of people have really bad experiences in hostels or with social workers,” said Sarah. “That’s why it’s important to get to know the person. They’re rough sleeping but these are people with real histories who have dreams and we need to help them.”
Sarah believes the Solidarity Shelter, a new hub run by outreach groups and charities with space for up to 50 people, is “amazing”.
She continued: “The numbers of rough sleepers are definitely going up. I think this is to do with Universal Credit but also a result of short-term tenancies and a lack of affordable housing. We are seeing people who’ve never been on the streets before rough sleeping and short term tenancies is one of the biggest causes.”