Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is the latest high profile figure to show an interest in the work being done to help the homeless in Stafford.
Already this year Stafford Borough Council was singled out in the House of Lords after Government figures showed rough sleeping in the area had halved. And the council was also asked to appear on national TV for a discussion on tackling the issues of homelessness and rough sleepers.
Now, The Rt Honourable John Bercow MP, who has been the Commons Speaker since 2009, visited Eagle House in Stafford (Friday 23 March) to see for himself the successful projects that have been implemented. The Speaker visited Stafford following an invitation by local MP, Jeremy Lefroy.
The whistle-stop visit included a talk with Community Matron, Suzanne Rigby, dubbed the ‘Angel of Stafford’ by rough sleepers in the town, and a tour of Eagle House – which has been instrumental in delivering the new ‘Housing First’ project to get homeless people into long term, sustainable accommodation.
Both of the initiatives were able to go ahead after the council secured more than £200,000 of Government funding.
The local authority is now seen as leading the way in tackling homeless and rough sleeping issues - with more than 60 representatives from organisations across the borough attending a recent workshop to find out how to cope with changes in legislation relating to homelessness.
The council was also the first in the Midlands to reach gold standard for its homeless work - helping around 850 people and families keep a roof over their head since April 2017.
Eagle House is run by Midland Heart – a non-profit making registered housing provider - and offers temporary accommodation for single people aged between 18 and 64 years old who are faced with homelessness. Individuals also have access to ongoing advice and support which includes training in job searching, benefit claims, and life skills to help promote independent living.
The Speaker was accompanied on his visit by, among others, Jeremy Lefroy MP, Councillor Jeremy Pert, the Cabinet Member for Communities at the council, and Midland Heart’s Director of Supported Living, Tom Harrison.
The Speaker thanked everyone involved in the work and said: “This is an admirable initiative involving several partners, with much thought given to it, and it is starting to show real benefits. It is terrific to see the joy that is derived from the work everyone here is doing in making people’s lives better.”
Councillor Pert appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme earlier this year discussing the success of the ‘Housing First’ project and Community Matron.
He said: “We are not letting up on our efforts to ensure residents have a roof over their head and that rough sleepers are given the appropriate help and support. The fact that we are being talked about on a national stage will hopefully help to secure further funding to continue with these initiatives.
“In the last few weeks we have met with the Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP; we were recognised for our successful work by Lord Bourne in the Lords; and now the Speaker of the House has come to see for himself what we are delivering.
“And we are committed to preventing homelessness wherever possible through early intervention and supporting people into long term, sustainable accommodation.”
Tom Harrison, said: “The honourable member was impressed with both the quality of the accommodation and support offered at Eagle House as well as our working in partnership with the council on an innovative Housing First project.
“Midland Heart and Stafford Borough Council are leading the way in using the Housing First model to try and meet the needs of entrenched rough sleepers and those who have experienced a ‘revolving door’ in terms of traditional homeless services.”
More information on homelessness https://www.staffordbc.gov.uk/homelessness-making-a-homelessness-application
Press Release No 5427