ROUGH sleepers in the Black Country are set to be given help after the government confirmed funding worth £9.6m will be used to launch a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) project.

Five ‘Housing First’ units will be created in Dudley borough as part of the pilot scheme which aims to help rough sleepers off the streets.

The pilot will be overseen by the WMCA and the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street’s Homelessness Task Force alongside the seven local authorities, housing providers and homelessness charities in the region.

The project will offer individuals safe, secure accommodation, alongside intensive support to help them recover from complex health issues such as substance abuse and mental health difficulties.

It is based on the Housing First approach to supporting rough sleepers into long-term accommodation which originated in Finland and has proven successful in many countries.

Initially, it will seek to work with long-term rough sleepers to help them off the streets along with individuals at risk of homelessness and those with particularly challenging needs.

Back in October, Andy Street visited Helsinki to see how Housing First has made a significant impact on rough sleeping with a view to trialling the same approach in the West Midlands.

Andy said: “Having seen Housing First in action, I can vouch for the positive impact it has on supporting rough sleepers and came back determined we trial it here in the West Midlands.

“In essence, it can provide people who are homeless with a new start, somewhere to call home. From there, they will be given support to help them rebuild their lives.

“Now the funding has been confirmed we will work with charities and local authorities on getting the pilot up and running.

“The latest figures suggest a modest decrease in the last 12 months in the West Midlands - I hope funding for projects like Housing First will help us continue and accelerate this progress.”

Jean Templeton, chair of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force, said: “A huge amount of work has gone into preparing the bid to Government for this pilot and we are really pleased with the outcome.

“Now the funding is confirmed, we can really push on. We’ve done a lot of the groundwork in terms of sourcing accommodation and developing the systems. Now, we are aiming to start moving individuals into Housing First tenancies within the next three to six months.”

The project is also set to support nearly 50 people in Sandwell, where this winter saw council officials help 45 rough sleepers living on the streets of the borough.

Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We are working closely with partner organisations to offer support to people who sleep rough on our streets.

“We have six local town offices that have built up a good knowledge of areas where we find rough sleepers and these are regularly monitored. We work with specialist organisations to support rough sleepers into long-term accommodation.

“We also have a contract to provide accommodation for all rough sleepers who want to engage with services during bad weather. Between November and March, this programme supported 45 people in total who were sleeping rough on our streets.

“We await more detail on the announcement to see how Sandwell will benefit from the pilot scheme.”

The move has also been welcomed by the housing charity Shelter which says that the number of rough sleepers nationally is now the highest in a decade.