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  1. ITV Report

Exeter sees steep rise in number of people sleeping rough

Charities in Exeter are trying to change how people who sleep rough are perceived. Photo: ITV West Country

The number of people sleeping rough in Exeter has increased sharply over the past five years.

The city has the second highest rate of rough sleeping outside London, behind only Brighton and Hove.

Exeter has the second highest number of rough sleepers outside London. Credit: ITV West Country

Homelessness charity St Petrock's says it worked with 304 people in Exeter last year.

Over the past five years, there has been a 38% increase in the number of visits to the centre.

304
people in Exeter worked with homelessness charity St Petrock's last year

The charity says a high percentage of homeless people have mental health problems and issues with alcohol or substance addiction.

A high percentage of homeless people have issues with alcohol or substance addiction. Credit: ITV West Country

Charity Julian House has been awarded a contract to provide an 'assertive outreach' service to contact and help rough sleepers.

Staff say it's important to provide support as soon as possible to people who are living on the streets.

If we pick them up very quickly then we can look to move them off the streets before they become entrenched in that lifestyle. Once they become entrenched in the lifestyle, actually getting into housing is more scary than staying out for some people.

– Jenny Blackie, Assertive Homeless Outreach Team

The Julian House outreach team is based at the coLab - a community hub which brings together different agencies like probation, crisis services and a GP practice under one roof.

coLab brings together different agencies like probation, crisis services and a GP practice. Credit: ITV West Country

CoLab say they have 32 projects based at the centre and these are grouped into four categories:

  • homelessness
  • preventing reoffending
  • recovery from drug and alcohol misuse
  • health and wellbeing

CoLab's chief executive says it's a major benefit for people to be able to access a range of services in a single place.

Having a multitude of services that can help support them is obviously a strength because many of the people we see aren't just trying to tackle one issue in their lives it's a whole complex web of issues. By working collaboratively, we can make sure that we're all working with people at the same pace and giving them a joined-up offer of support.

– Simon Bowkett, Chief Executive, CoLabs

The charity warns as well as those sleeping on the streets there are many others sofa surfing who are not as obviously homeless.

The program is trying to change how rough sleepers are perceived. Credit: ITV West Country

Julian House works with Exeter City Council's environmental health department, which can get complaints from members of the public who feel threatened by groups of homeless people.

The program is trying to change how people who sleep rough are perceived.

Antisocial behaviour is normally a symptom of what the underlying issues are so we work to identify the underlying causes of what is going on for people and try to get them in contact with the services that are actually relevant to them. Maybe they just need a bit of support to help them through their daily lives.

– Jenny Blackie, Assertive Homeless Outreach Team