YORK’S housing boss has pledged to end rough sleeping in the city within the four-year lifetime of the new Labour administration.

Speaking in the wake of the death of a rough sleeper on York’s streets last month, Cllr Michael Pavlovic said: “I’ve been to too many funerals – there have been too many wasted lives.”

Cllr Pavlovic says he has spent most of his working life – first as a probation officer, then as the head of York housing and resettlement charity YACRO – supporting homeless and disadvantaged people.

He said the death of a rough sleeper on a street bench off High Ousegate last month was ‘incredibly sad’.

“These deaths do happen - but they shouldn’t happen,” he said.

“I did not know him - but I did know a lot of people who have sadly died.

“They were all human beings first and foremost, with hopes, dreams and aspirations that they may not have achieved for a variety of reasons. But they all deserved dignity and respect.”

York Press: Police guarding the scene in Ousegate after the body of a rough sleeper was fond last monthPolice guarding the scene in Ousegate after the body of a rough sleeper was fond last month (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Cllr Pavlovic admitted that, with the council facing a budget overspend of £11.4 million next year, council finances were going to be tight.

But he insisted that ending rough sleeping in York was possible.

“I want to eliminate rough sleeping in York within the tenure of this Labour administration,” he said.

“It can be done. It will be difficult - finances are tight. But society benefits.”

Cllr Pavlovic said the authority spends a substantial amount each year on homelessness - including running two hostels (one for adults and one for young people) and a seven-strong ‘street navigators’ team of council staff who go out to find people sleeping rough and try to point them towards support.

But he stressed that hostels did not work for everyone. Many people ended up on the street because ‘they have been let down: they have lost trust in society’, he said.

“But we can support people who have given up, can re-establish connections."


Cllr Pavlovic said one of his short-term priorities was to re-open the city’s NAPpad – a mobile night-shelter with four self-contained units – as soon as possible.

The NAPpad was based on council property in Ordnance Lane. This is now being developed, so the NAPpad had to be closed – York Central MP Rachael Maskell said in a hard-hitting column last week that had it still been open, the rough sleeper who died last month may have still been alive.

The council is now looking for a new site for the NAPpad, Cllr Pavlovic said. “It is a priority,” he said. “It is going to be opened.”

He said that he also ‘very much hoped’ that the council’s annual £90,000 grant to the Salvation Army in York to fund early-morning checks on rough sleepers will also be continued.

He said the key to tackling rough sleeping in the longer term was ‘housing first’ - a model in which rough sleepers with complex needs are placed into flats of their own, with ‘wraparound’ medical, mental health and dependency support.

The council currently has about 30 ’housing first’ flats in the city – but he is keen to expand that.

It could be done by rethinking the way the council’s rough sleeping ‘spend’ was used, he said.

The authority is working with the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy on a new rough sleeping strategy, which should be ready by October. “And then we will have a better understanding of what it will cost.

“But we need to start taking rough sleeping seriously.”