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Stray Kids CASE 143

Man who used to live in a tent ‘has pride back’ thanks to rough sleepers scheme

Two people who were homeless for years said there lives have been turned around thanks to a new initiative. Tay Mills and Kerry Edwards, 42, now have new homes after living on the streets of Mansfield thanks to a pioneering scheme called Mansfield First Steps.

The scheme enables rough sleepers to move off the streets and into accommodation which includes a package of support to help address troubling needs such as mental health issues and substance misuse. Kerry says the scheme has been a “life changer”.

Both Tay and Kerry were moved to Stone Cross Court, Mansfield, and Tay says the experience has “brought some pride back.” Initial funding of £290,000 from the department of levelling up, housing and communities has now been increased to £1m to be spread out over the next three years.

Tay had been living in a tent and homeless for six years before being picked up and helped by Mansfield First Steps. He said: “I appreciate what they have done for me because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here now.

“If you work with them and do what they say, they do help you. You don’t think they are at the time but when you look back and reflect they do help you quite a lot.

“It’s given me a bit of pride back living here because having your own place, you can do what you want, have it how you want. I can have my son here. I can have people round. I can keep it tidy. So having my own place has benefited me a lot.”

Mansfield is the first area of Nottinghamshire, outside the city, to adopt this approach to homelessness. Since April 2020, it has helped a total of 10 people at risk of sleeping rough move into suitable supported accommodation.

In 2021/22, Mansfield First Steps had 74 referrals and of those it accepted 29.

Kerry Edwards, an addict on and off since she was 14, said: “When I first came to Stone Cross, I suffered severely with my mental health, anxiety and addiction. Straight away I was offered a psychologist, so I grabbed that with both hands.

“For the past year I have been working with the psychologist which has helped my mental health and anxiety immensely. I am now signed off.

“I can’t praise the ladies here enough. If you are willing to put the work in, they’re willing to help you, left, right and centre.

“The support I have had has been immense. They’ve been there on my worst days. They’ve been there on my good days. It’s been a life changer for me.

“I am now a volunteer outreach worker for CGL. I am still at Stone Cross but hopefully going on to a council property soon and then I will be able to come to talk to the other residents here about how Stone Cross can change your life.”

The next stages for Mansfield First Steps include adding five properties to increase the units of accommodation in the scheme to 15, to help take even more rough sleepers off the streets.

Executive Mayor Andy Abrahams said: “I am so proud of Team Mansfield for becoming a leader in the pioneering First Steps project which will help break the cycle of homelessness for the most vulnerable in our communities.”