Thursday, 23 February 2012

Question to council on homelessness

I'm reporting on the issues that came up in full council earlier this week in bits.  One of the questions I was asked was by Cllr Willis on the issue of homelessness.
My answer is below:


Homeless People in Reading

Would the Leader of the Council update me on the numbers of homeless people in Reading identified in the latest count, together with figures for the last two years?

REPLY by Councillor Eden (Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods) on behalf of Councillor Lovelock (Leader of the Council):

There are a number of different measures of homelessness and to support Cllr Willis in his query I am providing a variety of information.

Number of homeless households accepted each quarter
Quarter
2010/11
2011/12
Q1
3
7
Q2
11
23
Q3
11
27
Q4
14

Total
39 (full year)
57 (3 qtrs)
Average per qtr
9.75
19

The statutory measure of those who become homeless who the council supports into accommodation is by household, which includes single people, couples and families with children.  The table above shows that this has been increasing from a low of 3 in the period April-June 2010 to 27 in the most recent quarter (October-December 2011).  In fact there have been significantly more homeless households accepted for help in just the 1st 9 months of the year than in the whole of the previous financial year.  It is worth noting that this follows a fall in these cases in previous years due to the preventative approach taken by the council.

Number of households prevented from being homeless each quarter
Quarter
2010/11
2011/12
Q1
36
167
Q2
149
112
Q3
161
88
Q4
160

Total
506
367
Average
127
122

The numbers of households prevented from being homeless each quarter remains substantially above the figure for those accepted as homeless, fluctuating but averaging at 127 per quarter in 2010/2011 and 122 per quarter this financial year.

Rough Sleepers
In terms of those sleeping rough on the streets the data we have is based on a weekly headcount by St Mungo’s of rough sleepers.  This varies substantially from month to month but the average is up slightly from just over 4 people last municipal year to an average of 5 ½ people this municipal year. 
Cllr Willis will be aware that the cabinet recently approved an increase in on-going accommodation and improved services for former rough sleepers working in partnership with St Mungos and other charities.

A good example of how this can work was during the recent cold weather.  22 short term bed spaces were offered under our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol and 31 different people used this service during January and February, although not all of them were verified as rough sleepers and 12 came from outside Reading Borough (and long term will be supported in their home area).   However this emergency response gave the outreach workers an extra opportunity to engage with rough sleepers and help them to secure on-going accommodation and support services.  Many rough sleepers have significant issues such as mental health or substance/alcohol misuse and therefore are not always willing to engage with the services that are available – indeed 5 people unfortunately refused to use the cold weather accommodation at all.
However I can report to council that 12 people have now been housed since initially being accommodated through the severe weather emergency protocol, giving them an opportunity to get their lives back on track.  

The cabinet takes the issue of homelessness very seriously and will continue to do all it can to support people in avoiding homelessness and helping those who find themselves homeless.  However it should be noted that the general picture is that homelessness is on the rise both locally and nationally and forecasts are for the current pressures on households leading to further rises in homelessness.