A few weeks ago, I said there would be more on how we intend to end rough sleeping in Portsmouth. Today, we have published our plan for the next year and beyond.
Back in January it may have seemed impossible to suggest that we could get 90% of the city's rough sleepers and 'sofa surfers' into self-contained accommodation. Thanks to the hard work of the council, other services and volunteers, this is precisely what has been achieved and it is nothing short of phenomenal. The city is grateful to you all! Thank you.
It's important to me however that this help continues beyond the COVID crisis. Portsmouth should be a kinder, fairer and greener city. We will offer the chance of a home to those that want one, and help and support for those who do not. We should be treating every homeless person as a person, not a statistic. We will offer support tailored to each of them. It will be housing first, but not housing only.
Our long-term ambition is to stop people needing to use the streets as a bed. That is easy to say and difficult to do. Some rough sleepers, for a variety of reasons, don't feel ready to accept that offer of help. This isn't about penalising rough sleepers simply by removing them from the streets, it's about making sure they have options and feel safe and supported.
Every homeless person should be given the chance to lead the life they want. Many want to learn or to find a job. I want the city's schools, colleges and workplaces to help us meet these needs. I'm calling on the government to provide the legislative and financial help to those whose lives are blighted by homelessness and rough sleeping and to stop people becoming homeless in the first place. They can do this by:-
- Funding our plan to help people through the uncertainties of the next year
- Change the benefits system so that universal credit can be paid directly to landlords - this is a barrier stopping many landlords accepting the homeless.
- Stopping tenants being told to leave their home through no fault of their own.
In the long-term, we want to build and buy homes for rough sleepers. This will take time, but we will do it because it's the right thing to do. That means working with landlords to provide privately-rented homes, with those that need more intensive support getting the help that fits their needs.
We hope the Government will back up its words and help us. We want their ambitions for the country to be as bold and transformative as ours for the city.
We need to do all these things while also cutting our waiting list. In Portsmouth, we are embarking on the biggest programme of building new council housing in a generation. To give homes to everyone who needs one, we need much, much more.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to end rough sleeping for good. This Liberal Democrat council, working with others, intends to take it.
Councillor Darren Sanders
Cabinet Member for Housing
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