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Council strategy restricts emergency beds

November 01 2010
The chances of getting an emergency bed are low for almost all applicants

There has been concern recently about the emergency beds for Birmingham's homeless usually provided by the Salvation Army's William Booth Centre.

Dr Graham Stubbs, who co-ordinates the support services helpdesk at St Martin's in the Bullring, said: "The Salvation Army emergency beds have been a direct link for homeless people. The service is a bottom-line safety net for anyone sleeping rough in Birmingham and was simple to access."

Homeless people now have to queue at neighbourhood offices and go through a demanding process. They may have to wait for three or four hours for referrals. The system is more complex and very impersonal for the service user. Unless individuals are assessed as extremely vulnerable, they will struggle to get an emergency bed.

These changes bring this service in line with Birmingham City Council's new "single point of access" strategy. Some beds have been allocated to the council for referrals from neighbourhood offices.

Garry Murphy, manager of the William Booth Centre, said: "The Salvation Army is working with the local authority to eradicate street homelessness in Birmingham. We still manage emergency beds for service users. Three emergency beds have been allocated to the Temporary Neighbourhood Team and one emergency bed has been allocated to the Rough Sleeper's Team at the Homeless Services Centre run by Midland Heart." If the Homeless Services Centre has not referred anyone by 10pm, the bed is then available to anyone else.

However, Dr Stubbs has expressed concern; "This system will not suit everyone. Unless you are a homeless person with severe mental health issues, are physically disabled or with young children, then you will not be accommodated. The chance of a homeless person being allocated an emergency bed after 10pm when there is only one bed available at the Homeless Service Centre, is low."