Calls for homelessness support with fears of 'tsunami of evictions'

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn. Photo: Jamie Osborn

Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

A Norwich councillor is calling for increased funding support to tackle sofa-surfing and rough sleeping in the city. 

Jamie Osborn, Green Party councillor for the Mancroft ward, said the existing economic impact of the pandemic has created a fear of a "tsunami of evictions". 

Last week during the city council meeting to debate the budget, Green Party members put forward an amendment to the budget to provide additional tenancy support to help prevent evictions.

Speaking after the meeting and in response to a special homeless series by the EDP, Mr Osborn said: "A lot of people who I come across in Norwich really appreciate tenancy support, but the council is really stretched already with overcapacity, so it is really important we invest in this now to prevent a much greater rise in homelessness.

"Many people are anxious about their tenancies at the moment, as well as potential unemployment and the added stress of being evicted. This really should be prioritised." 

The councillor says he knows friends who have been sofa-surfing during the pandemic, but praised the way the city council has worked with local charities such as Shelter to support those in need.

Homeless Andy Francis who is living on the streets of Norwich during the cold weather. Picture: Simon Finlay

Norwich Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn has called for more financial support to help prevent homelessness - Credit: Simon Finlay

Mr Osborn said: "I really value the city council's Pathways team and what they do. I can't praise those at St Martins Housing Trust enough as well as other charities, but these are charities which do not get enough funding." 

He suggested some of the funding that is being earmarked for the Norwich Western Link Road would be better spent on supporting the vulnerable, whilst also alluding to the long-term effects of austerity under successive governments. 

Mr Osborn continued: "The county council has got reserves it can use for emergencies and making more services available. Even with Covid, these reserves are needed to help make sure people do not need to come to the council for much more support." 

Norwich City Council has spoken about their partnership with Pathways agencies ensuring people are identified and offered a safe place to stay.

The council has also said it is working with landlords and tenants in a bid to show flexibility and support to tenants whose income has been affected by coronavirus, and to help ensure eviction is an absolute last resort.