Horsham ‘puts every effort into preventing homelessness’ says Cabinet member

The number of people in temporary accommodation across England has risen by 44%
The number of people in temporary accommodation across England has risen by 44%

Thirty-six households were living in temporary accommodation in Horsham at the end of March this year, according to newly-released numbers from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The figures also showed that seven of the homeless households who had been identified as a priority case had not been found any accommodation.

Across England, there are 10,000 families for whom councils have a duty to provide housing, but no suitable accommodation had been secured. In 2013, there were 5,930.

The number of people in temporary accommodation has also risen, by 44%. In England, there are now nearly 80,000 households in such lodgings.

The figures have prompted a homelessness charity to criticise the growing number of families and individuals being placed into B&Bs, hostels and other temporary housing across the country.

However Horsham District Council has defended its record and said that it refutes an earlier report on the issue on the County Times website which it said implied that its temporary accommodation can be ‘substandard and dangerous’.

Tricia Youtan, Cabinet Member for Community and Wellbeing said: “Horsham District Council has consistently invested in temporary accommodation provided to meet the needs of households facing homelessness in its District. The council’s homeless advice team puts every effort into preventing homelessness wherever possible and was successful in preventing 200 households last year from becoming homeless.”

Horsham District Council said it would like to clarify, when temporary accommodation is not available it often has to resort to using bed and breakfast accommodation to provide a safety net to households with no other accommodation available. In these instances staff from the council have visited the bed and breakfast establishments and satisfied themselves that they are not sub-standard or dangerous for occupation. .

The council’s homeless advice team operates a daily drop-in service for anyone homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and would encourage anyone with concerns they may be affected by homelessness to seek advice or assistance as early as possible. The service operates Monday to Friday 9-5 at the Council offices in Chart Way, Horsham.

Commenting on the national picture in the wake of the publication of the latest figures, the chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, Jon Sparkes, said: “While we welcome steps the Government has taken around preventing homelessness, the figures are a stark reminder that there are still far too many people who are homeless and stuck in temporary accommodation or being placed in sub-standard and sometimes dangerous B&Bs.

“Every day we see first-hand the effects of long stays in these types of accommodation - people can become isolated, with little access to vital support services, in poor conditions with nowhere to wash clothes or cook.

“No one deserves to live like this. When people do lose their homes, we need to make sure they are helped quickly into safe and secure accommodation. This means affordable houses and flats in ordinary communities.”

Of the households in temporary accommodation in Horsham in March, the majority, 20, were placed in local authority or housing association stock. Of the rest, 15 were placed in B&Bs.

In the 12 months to March 2018, 95 households in Horsham were classified as homeless and a priority need. It means the council has a responsibility to find suitable accommodation for them - though councils will often help non-priority cases as well.

Priority cases include families with children, households where someone is pregnant and people aged 16 or 17. Councils can also class certain people as a priority if they are vulnerable, including victims of domestic abuse, people with mental health issues and those who have spent time in care, prison or the armed forces.

From April this year, local councils have been required to implement the Homelessness Reduction Act, which is designed to ensure that public services work together in a coordinated approach to tackle homelessness. Despite a government commitment to spend £72.7m on it over three years, many councils have reported their facilities for tackling homelessness being stretched by rising demand.

Martin Tett, the housing spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Every instance of homelessness is an individual tragedy. This rise in homelessness, which means that councils are currently housing more than 79,000 homeless families, and in excess of 123,000 homeless children, in temporary accommodation is deeply worrying.

“Councils are determined to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place and do all they can to support families. Rising homelessness demonstrates the need for the duties that the Homelessness Reduction Act imposed on councils to be fully funded and resourced.

“The people caught up in our homelessness crisis can’t afford for us to wait. It’s now crucial that we take the serious measures that are needed to get towards our collective ambition to end homelessness outright.”

Reliance on temporary accommodation for homeless households is generally much lower outside of London than in the capital.

Data: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness