A SCHEME aimed at getting people off the streets and into housing has been credited with helping the number of rough sleepers drop in Dudley.

Dudley has the lowest number of rough sleepers in the West Midlands, according to government figures released today.

Four people were counted as sleeping rough in the borough when the official count was taken one night in November last year, figures from the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government show.

This compares to 52 people in Birmingham; 23 in Coventry; ten in Sandwell; six in Solihull and Walsall and 14 in Wolverhampton, making a total of 115 people recorded in the West Midlands.

News of the reduction was welcomed by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, who visited a Housing First project in Halesowen to see what Dudley Council are doing to get people off the streets.

The Housing First project, introduced by the Mayor's Homelessness Taskforce to authorities across the West Midlands, finds homes for rough sleepers with added support to help them stay safe.

The team behind the project in Dudley have housed 17 people so far this year, smashing their target to get 14 people into secure homes.

The residents, who often are extremely vulnerable with complex histories and needs, are also given extra support by the dedicated intensive housing support officers.

Speaking from a flat in Halesowen which is being renovated to accommodate a homeless person, Andy Street said: "When you look at the picture across the whole country we’re doing relatively well. The reduction nationally is 9%. It doesn’t mean we’re complacent at all, there’s still 115 people too many, but what this says to me is we have something that appears to be working and we need to press on determinedly and really help those people in the coming year."

He called for national government to pump more cash into the Housing First scheme and also to increase the housing allowance rate, which he said leaves people on benefits struggling to afford private rents.

The scheme has made a life-changing difference to the people it has helped, say the team.

Diane Kendrick, an intensive housing support officer who works on the scheme, said: "We've had some real life changes in Dudley. We’ve had people working, we’ve had one stop using heroin, stopped begging. There's been so much of a change in some of our clients. We tell them, you are not alone, we are there for you."

Fellow officer Annabel Fuidge added: "Its about empowerment and encouraging them to be independent. They have someone there that they can trust."

The figures show that nationally there were 4, 266 people sleeping rough in the UK in November, which was a fall for the second consecutive year but still up by 141% from 2010 levels.

Homelessness charities have said the government's 'snapshot' figure underestimates the scale rough sleeping in the UK.