Doubts over whether £111,000 grant can help homeless in coastal town
PUBLISHED: 12:17 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:15 05 February 2020
Archant Norfolk 2018
The Salvation Army has expressed doubts that £111,000 granted to a borough council to tackle rough sleeping is enough to overturn a 150% increase in the last decade.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council will use the money to provide continued funding of Herring House Trust's Pathway Project - which provides an emergency bed and support for rough sleepers.
While rough sleeping is defined as physically sleeping on the street, homelessness includes those living in temporary accomodation.
Councillor Andy Grant, Chairman of the Housing and Neighbourhood Committee, suggested that the grant money will also allow for the creation of a "Rough Sleeper Co-ordinator role".
But Malcolm Page, Director of Homelessness Services at the Salvation Army, questioned the ability of the funding to plug gaps in support services for rough sleepers which have been cut by £1bn across the country since 2010.
He said: "Since then, there has been a 150% increase in rough sleeping in Great Yarmouth. Outreach services can only do so much, and unless there is continuing support for rough sleepers then these vulnerable people may return to the streets.
"For too long local authorities have been left trying to pick up the pieces of people's lives, and central Government needs to provide targeted funding so councils can offer tailored support for homeless people."
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This year, the council will also have more money to focus on homelessness prevention than it did in 2019, but the question remains as to whether this grant, too, is sufficient.
As was made clear in the Housing and Neighbourhood Meeting in January, the borough will receive "£100,000 more than they expected to get" by way of a central government Homelessness Reduction Grant, totalling £178,346 for 2020-2021.
The council is hoping to use the additional funding to provide transitional housing and help people maintain their tenancies.
In particular, they want to move away from high spending on emergency Bed and Breakfast accomodation for homeless people, which cost nearly £320,000 between April 2018 and December 2019 and of which only £204,000 was recovered.
Mr Grant said: "The council works proactively with a range of partners to support both rough sleepers and homeless people on their journey into stable accommodation.
"In November 2019 the Housing and Neighbourhood Committee approved the Temporary Accommodation Strategy to ensure that the council has sufficient temporary accomodation.
"But the strategy will also ensure that it is possible to reduce the need for temporary accommodation, including having to use Bed and Breakfasts.
"The council is working to help bring empty homes back into use. Most of these are privately-owned but the council would welcome the opportunity to support the homeless into these households."
Labour Leader and Councillor Trevor Wainwright said: "No funding is ever going to be enough in this situation - but in the current financial climate, at least these extra funds are a start."