Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Darren Sanders provides an update on actions the Liberal Democrat administration is taking to help people out of homelessness.
During this pandemic, people are rightly worried about protecting the most vulnerable. Those sleeping on the streets are uniquely susceptible. Many have underlying health problems. Many face the sort of contact with others that spreads the virus. None have anywhere to shield: the streets do not provide that option.
Since Lib Dems resumed running the Council, we have run a 'homes for the homeless' policy becoming - as far as we know - the first Council in the country to buy homes to get people off the streets and out of B&Bs. This crisis, though, required something bigger.
In the past few weeks, this city has had 90% of its rough sleepers in hotels. Planning for this began long before it became Government policy.
Lib Dems want to be more ambitious for our city. We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give every person sleeping on the streets a home and a better life.
Luckily, the Government seems to think the same. Its desire for 6,000 homes with support for rough sleepers feels like our homes for homeless policy gone national. It wants to work with Portsmouth to make that happen.
Support is crucial. While it's easy to say we should just give rough sleepers a home, homeless people tell us that might be enough for them, but for many, they have complex (social, addiction, physical & mental health) needs and just providing housing without other support sets them up to fail. A place to live alongside support tailored to each person is the best path to a brighter future.
We are keen to help bring that about. That is why Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and I have lobbied Government to overcome the barriers that prevent us providing that level of care & support.
- Funding has to last longer than a few months at a time.
- The government must work with us to help those who fall through the cracks.
- Local agencies & organisations are best placed to decide how to help local people. Not those in Whitehall.
- We must do this alongside helping those waiting for a home, not instead of it.
- Tackle the physical and mental health issues many homeless people face.
- Tackle the many causes of homelessness to prevent people from falling into homelessness in future.
During the crisis, we have found willing ears and a desire to do things differently. The challenge will be to maintain this desire and approach in the long term.
In the next few weeks, the Council will publish some ideas on what can work in Portsmouth. It’s important to me these are things we can actually achieve the help and support people need. We won’t solve this overnight but we must keep working to find the right solutions for each person. It's vital central government works with councils to plan for the future and stop homelessness before it starts.
These ideas will be the first down payment on the kinder, fairer and greener Portsmouth Liberal Democrats want our city to be when this crisis is over. I look forward to sharing them with you.