Wiltshire Council 'must redouble efforts' to deal with rise in homelessness

There has been a "significant increase" in the number of rough sleepers in Wiltshire since 2019

Homelessness in Wiltshire is on the rise and may start stretching support services, according to a new report by the council.

An update from Wiltshire Council’s Head of Housing People Services, Mrs Nicole Smith, says there has been a "significant increase in demand" since November 2019.

The report says there are expected to be more homeless people on the street this year than the year before.

It adds: “With the increasing demands on the homeless service we review regularly our temporary housing portfolio.

“We are currently managing an average of 85 families/singles in temporary accommodation and have not yet had the need to place in B&B, however with the increase in demand we are experiencing this has been raised as a likely risk.”

It goes on to say: “Since April 2020 we have supported 217 rough sleepers into longer-term accommodation. However, we are still seeing a flow onto the streets of around 14 new rough sleepers a month.

“Our next annual rough sleeper count, which is a statutory requirement to carry out and is done nationally, will be completed in November 22.

“Last year the official annual rough sleeper count was 11 but we are expecting this figure to be higher this year.”

A grant of £800,000 from the government has been promised over the period 2022-2024 to deal with the drug and alcohol problems of rough sleepers.

Extra staff including Specialist Housing Caseworkers, who help people who are at risk of becoming homeless, have also been recruited.

A new 10-bedroom accommodation for homeless people in Trowbridge has been bought called The Bridge and opens 22 November.

However, Wiltshire Council Liberal Democrat Leader Ian Thorn said: “Wiltshire Council has to do more. It really must redouble its efforts.

"The big issue coming at us sooner rather than later which will have a big effect on homelessness is the cost-of-living crisis.

“The other big danger is that when houses are put under serious financial pressure there is a possibility of relationship and marital breakdowns, and people might start becoming homeless that way.

“The challenge is around funding. Wiltshire Council is facing a £6 million funding gap this year and a £45 million funding gap over the next three years and the worry is that even with the best will in the world there aren’t enough resources.

“It is incumbent on the leadership of Wiltshire Council to engage in talks with government ministers about securing funding.”

Credit: Jude Holden, Local Democracy Reporter