Council to develop “joined-up” approach to address homelessness

Begging homeless

Around 200 people contact Bedford Borough Council for homelessness assistance every month, a meeting heard.

A report to the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee (23 November) added that the council is recruiting additional staff to focus more on activities to prevent homelessness.

Lee Phanco, chief officer for assessment, application and business support, said: “At the moment, we have around about 19 open homelessness cases.

“That changes on a daily basis as we get new applications and we help people to secure settled accommodation.

“But typically we’re looking at almost 2,000 open cases, and that’s about 200 new people approaching us for assistance every month.”

Mr Phanco said the main reasons for making contact were that friends and family have asked them to leave, their private landlord is ending the tenancy, or they’re having to move because of domestic abuse.

He added that a “significant proportion” had to be placed in temporary accommodation, which is an average of 73 new households a month.

“We do obviously also have households moving out,” he said.

“But as of 31 October, we had 691 households in temporary accommodation and 34 per cent of those were households with children.

“If it’s families we try to make sure they’re not in there for more than six weeks and for as short a time as possible,” he said.

He added that the council does take schooling and workplaces into account when finding accommodation.

“But it is proving increasingly challenging to find accommodation in the borough,” he said. 

“There are significant challenges around the service at the moment.

“I’m pleased to say that we have had approval for investment in 25 additional posts for the housing homelessness team.

“The intention is to focus more on activity to prevent homelessness.”

Mr Phanco added that a consultancy company is working with the council to review its homelessness processes and procedures.

“And we’ve recently established a homelessness and rough sleeping action board,” he added.

“Which is a combination of councillors and staff across all departments in the council to look at how we can bring a much more joined-up approach to addressing the underlying problems that cause homelessness.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter