A new way of dealing with homelessness, with more emphasis on prevention and treating people as individuals, is being proposed by the new Liberal Democrat team running Portsmouth City Council.
The Draft Portsmouth Homelessness Strategy is to be considered by Councillor Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing, on 29 January. It looks at issues including evictions by private landlords, people living in unsuitable temporary accommodation and rough sleeping.
This strategy reflects changes in national legislation and builds on draft proposals, approved last year, to help rough sleepers – in particular the use of personal housing plans, tailored to people's personal circumstances, to prevent homelessness.
The Draft Portsmouth Homelessness Strategy suggests extending the personal plan approach to tackle all kinds of homelessness. This would mean looking at the underlying causes of someone being homeless or at risk of homelessness, and helping to fix them.
The council is hoping that residents, landlords, homelessness charities and interested organisations will comment on the draft strategy and contribute to the final version.
Cllr Darren Sanders said: “Homelessness is a terrible experience for anyone to go through, and prevention has to be the main goal.
“In the last two years we've seen an increase of about 36% in people on our housing waiting list.
“We're predicting that we'll have to spend over £1m on temporary accommodation in 2018/19. Too much of that is going on bed and breakfast and hotel accommodation.
“That's why, since becoming Cabinet Member for Housing in May, I've wanted to look at ways to improve what we can offer.
“Part of this involves building new social housing. That is why I want to use the currently vacant Southsea community centre site to help us deal with this problem. I hope to agree a way forward on that on 29 January too.
“Every person is different and must be treated that way. However, the biggest single cause of homelessness is a private tenancy coming to an end. People leaving friends and family and survivors of domestic abuse are other significant causes.
“The council cannot do this alone. That is why we want to start a citywide discussion on the best ways forward. We have ideas of our own but need to hear from anyone with interest or expertise.”
Ideas in the draft strategy include:
- Working with owners of empty homes to encourage them to take steps to make their property available.
- Enhancing the council's Rent it Right scheme, which puts renters in touch with approved landlords, with the goal of encouraging landlords to take tenants who are struggling to find a settled home.
- Making sure there are more joined-up services for people leaving environments such as the armed forces, hospital, prison or care.
- Spotting people at risk of homelessness by flagging up those who fall behind with their rent or who have debt problems.
Consultation on the draft strategy is planned to open between 30 January and 30 April. Responses should be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Consultation on Homelessness Strategy, Housing Options, Civic Offices, Portsmouth PO1 2AL.