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Call to Government to act on homelessness crisis as city proposes five-year plan

Published on 15 November 2017

LEICESTER’S City Mayor is calling on the government to take drastic action to solve the national housing crisis, as the council launches consultation on a new five-year plan to tackle homelessness in the city.

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “Like councils across the country we have been dealing with increasing numbers of people who are threatened with, or experiencing homelessness, and these numbers continue to rise.

“Last year we were asked for help by more than 3,000 households who were facing homelessness. We also invested more than £5 million in services for homeless people and families.

“Cuts in housing benefit, the freezing of local housing allowance rates, increases in private sector rents and a massive shortfall in affordable housing mean that almost every city across the country is dealing with a growing homelessness crisis. This has a massive impact on public services, including police and health, and costs the taxpayer around £1 billion a year.

“This money would be much better invested in enabling councils to build affordable housing and removing caps on housing benefit. In Leicester we have created successful partnerships that have enabled others to build affordable housing on our land, but this is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.”

The council has launched a consultation on its new homelessness strategy, which sets out how the council aims to prevent homelessness, and how it will work with partners to provide housing support, over the next five years.

Priorities set out in the strategy include increasing support given to single people to prevent them from becoming homeless, as well as improving the help given to all eligible households.

The council wants to provide more long-term tenancies for those facing homelessness, so they don’t have to go into temporary accommodation first.  And it plans to improve the way it works with partners, such as schools, prisons, the police and homeless organisations, as well as working with new partners within communities.

The strategy also proposes a more targeted approach to supporting rough sleepers. Although some people are difficult to accommodate because of their challenging behaviour, some refuse services, and the council is prevented by law from helping certain categories of foreign nationals, the council always has space for rough sleepers, but wants to do more to stop them going back onto the streets.

Asst city mayor for housing Cllr Andy Connelly said: “The number of people facing homelessness is growing every day, and at the same time funding to councils and other public services is being cut. We must therefore make sure we are making best use of the funding available to us, and providing the services most needed.

“Our revised strategy sets out a number of proposals for how we can do this. For instance, we have vacancy rates in our temporary accommodation for families, but a rising need for singles’ accommodation.

"Our aim is to find families good quality, permanent housing so they don’t have to go into hostels or temporary accommodation; and we are looking at new and different options for singles, as well increasing the long term offers made to them.

“And although we know we have sufficient places in hostels to ensure no-one needs to sleep rough, there is always more we can do to break down the barriers that sometimes prevent rough sleepers from using them.”

The council is working with the charity Action Homeless and other organisations to take part in the European End Street Homelessness campaign. This includes a survey and count of rough sleepers, which was carried out last week. The results will provide more accurate information for use by local services.

Consultation on the homeless strategy will run from November 14 to December 11. Feedback will be reported to the council’s housing scrutiny commission in January, with the final strategy published in Spring 2018.

The consultation is available on the council’s website at https://consultations.leicester.gov.uk/communications/homelessness-strategy-2018

Paper copies will also be available from city libraries.

•  The council spent more than £5 million on homelessness/prevention services last year

•  More than 3,000 households facing homelessness asked the council for help

•  90% of these had their homelessness prevented

•  1,215 households were supported to stay in their existing home, and 579 households were found a permanent place in
    social housing

•  At the same time 188 families whose homelessness couldn’t be prevented were placed in temporary accommodation

•  More than 700 homeless single people and couples were given temporary accommodation

•  The outreach team is out from 6am -10pm every weekday offering help to rough sleepers