Cuts to single homeless services in Waltham Forest could result in a rise in rough sleeping in the borough, SHP has warned.

Waltham Forest Council is set to slash spending on services for single homeless people by £994,000 over the next two years. As a result, of the 147 bed spaces in supported housing previously dedicated to these vulnerable adults, only 27 will survive.

Of particular concern is the imminent closure of Wardley Lodge, a 23-bed hostel providing support and accommodation to homeless people struggling with a range of problems including mental ill health, substance addiction and a history of rough sleeping.

The hostel, run by SHP for the past 35 years, provides intensive support for local people who have been assessed as having high support needs.

While the council has pledged to rehouse existing residents after concerns were raised by SHP and its clients, we fear that in future, vulnerable people will fall through the gaps in local service provision and may end up street homeless.

The cuts come as rough sleeping in London is rising sharply. A head count in Waltham Forest on one night in autumn 2015 found 33 people sleeping on the streets, up from just three in 2013, while the borough was recently listed in the top 20 local authorities in the country for rough sleeping.

Liz Rutherfoord, SHP Chief Executive, said: “Wardley Lodge plays a critical role in the borough’s strategy to sustain a reduction in rough sleeping and I can’t see how a closure won’t result in a rise in street homelessness. Even if all existing residents are rehoused with the right support, where will those who follow after go?”  

Waltham Forest Council says that in future, single homeless people in the borough will be referred to an ‘advice hub’ where they can access information and be signposted to housing and other services.   

But we fear this will leave a critical gap in provision for those with the most complex needs.

Wardley Lodge Service Manager Simona Giunta said: “Wardley Lodge is the only hostel in the borough appropriate for single homeless people with high support needs. Our residents have led chaotic lifestyles. Many find it difficult to live independently and have struggled to sustain tenancies in the past.  Advice services haven’t worked for them and they tend to get passed from one service to the next. Hostels like this provide a lifeline for people who would otherwise be stuck in a revolving door of services.”

Paul is 55 and has a physical disability, learning difficulties and a history of mental ill health. He was in a private flat for many years but lost his accommodation following a fall in the home and a stay in hospital.

He said: “Without Wardley Lodge I’d be dead. Before I came here I was suicidal.  When I first arrived I spent three months locked away in my room, as I had no confidence and didn’t want to engage with anyone. But there is a fantastic community here. It’s done wonders for my recovery, and I’m about to start a part time job at an allotment.”

He added: “The uncertainty I’m facing now is incredibly stressful. I don’t feel like I have a say in my future.”

Wardley Lodge is staffed round the clock by support workers who provide a safe and secure environment to help clients bring stability to their lives and enable those who are ready to access appropriate treatment.

Darren, 32, has been a resident of Wardley Lodge since April 2015. He was evicted from his Housing Association flat in February 2012 and spent three years living on the streets.

He said: “When I was referred to Wardley Lodge, I was suffering from depression and stress and I was drinking heavily. I’ve now completed a detox, and have been abstinent since March, which is the longest time in five years. Without Wardley Lodge, I might still be on the street and would definitely still be drinking. This place has given me stability and hope for the future, and now it’s being taken away.”

Liz Rutherfoord added: “People have come to Wardley Lodge in a terrible state and we have helped them turn their lives around. It is simply not realistic to assume that people with complex mental health problems and physical disabilities will travel to a ‘hub’ to get advice and signposting to accommodation.

“Waltham Forest Council should reconsider its long term strategy for meeting the needs of this category of people or it risks seriously failing the most vulnerable people of the borough.”

This story has also been covered by the Waltham Forest Guardian.