By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
A new initiative to tackle rough sleeping that’s described as a ‘dramatic step forward’ is being launched after it was revealed Nottingham has the highest levels of homelessness in the East Midlands.
Labour-run Nottingham City Council says homelessness is on the rise, largely due to the cost of living crisis which followed the Covid pandemic.
In the city alone, roughly 1,600 people (or one person in every 200) are registered as homeless, according to national charity Shelter.
To help, a new long-term initiative, called Nottingham Street Aid, is being launched from February 2 to give people a more reliable, simplistic way of donating directly to help those who are homeless and those with complex needs.
“Every penny” will go towards those in need, says Dr Paul Scotting, coordinator of Street Support Nottingham, who is behind the initiative.
Contactless payment points will soon be established in prominent locations across the city, including in the Victoria Centre and Theatre Royal, which will give people the option of donating.
The contactless points will be visually aided by posters explaining the voluntary sector-led initiative, which is being supported by the city council, the business community and numerous charities.
Dr Scotting told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Over 15 local charities, that provide help to homeless people across Nottingham, have come together to launch this new initiative (part of the Street Support Nottingham project).
“This is a dramatic step forwards, linking the people of Nottingham to the organisations who can help people away from a life on the streets.
“We know there is enormous public goodwill, but people often don’t know how to help.
“Buying the Big Issue is one good way, but it is often hard to know how else to support people who are homeless.
“Nottingham Street Aid provides an easy means to donate to a fund, where people can be confident that every penny they donate will be spent directly on someone who is homeless.”
Around two years ago, 15 organisations across the city helped create a website called Street Support Nottingham, which contained information advising people on how best to help those who may be homeless.
Nottingham Street Aid is a new, long-term initiative led by the voluntary sector and supported financially by the Nottingham Business Improvement District (BID), the council and The Nottingham Building Society.
It came about due to a lack of confidence from members of the general public in how best to help people they may see on the city streets.
The first contactless points will appear outside Boots in the Victoria Centre and to the right of the front doors of the Theatre Royal in the coming weeks.
People may also donate online via a website, using QR codes seen across the city and via text.
Denis Tully, the chief executive of independent homelessness charity Emmanuel House, said: “In my experience, the people of Nottingham are very concerned about homelessness.
“People often ask me: ‘How can I help?’
“Street Support offers a way of alternative giving, for people to give financially to supporting people who are homeless.
“They will know that their donation will be used appropriately as it will be channelled through a bona fide organisation.
“The fact that their donation goes directly to helping the individual person brings added value to what services can provide as often there are no financial resources for what the person needs to support them in very practical ways, like buying furniture for their new accommodation.”
Councillor Neghat Khan (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Inclusion at Nottingham City Council, said: “Sadly as the cost-of-living crisis bites, homelessness is on the rise.
“Thankfully there is a great support network in Nottingham to help but it needs extra funding to continue providing that support.
“We know that Nottingham people are generous and want to do what they can to help people facing homelessness but are sometimes unsure of the best way to do that.
“We support this scheme because it helps to make donating easier and gives people the confidence that the money they give will be used to help someone who is homeless.”
Dr Scotting adds: “Members of the public are encouraged to look out for our posters and the contactless donation points that will be appearing across the city and urban boroughs of Nottingham.
“People can also donate by texting STREET followed by a number from 1-20 to 70560 to donate £1-20 pounds to the fund.”