Number of homeless people is on the rise

THE number of people in the region who will be facing the New Year without a permanent home has sharply risen.There are 8,540 homeless households in the east of England in temporary accommodation, 31% more than last year.

THE number of people in the region who will be facing the New Year without a permanent home has sharply risen.

There are 8,540 homeless households in the east of England in temporary accommodation, 31% more than last year.

The statistics for September, contained in a report issued by the Office of Deputy Prime Minister this month, showed that there were 4,410 homeless households in the region.

The number of households made homeless in England this year will pass through the 200,000 mark and the amount of homeless households living in temporary accommodation has also reached a new high of 93,930.

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The statistics revealed that the worst areas are Tendring, Ipswich and Colchester.

A total of 428 households in Tendring are living in temporary accommodation, with 342 in Colchester, 252 in Chelmsford and 116 in Braintree.

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In Suffolk, Ipswich has the most households without a permanent home, a total of 264. Suffolk Coastal and Waveney districts both have more than 75 households living in temporary accommodation. Uttlesford has 45, St Edmundsbury 32, Mid-Suffolk has six and Babergh two.

Meanwhile, the Treasury-sponsored Barker review on housing estimated there is currently a shortfall of 31,000 affordable homes being built every year in England.

Homelessness charity Shelter has urged the government to act on the review to ensure that homeless people in the East of England get the homes they need. The charity said it wants to see the government boost funding for affordable housing and has campaigned for an end to substandard housing.

Shelter director, Adam Sampson, said: "Not only do we need to increase the number of homes in the broader sense but there also needs to be urgent reforms to the planning system – put frankly, it's nothing short of a national scandal that so many people are trapped in temporary homes and homes that are not fit for living."

Peter Gardiner, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: "One of the difficulties for people is finding suitably priced accommodation.

"There is a lot of pressure in terms of families presenting themselves as homeless. Those with children are considered the most vulnerable and the council houses them wherever possible, before young and middle-aged single people.

"It's also a sign of society that more households are breaking up, with young people setting out on their own and often finding themselves in a homeless situation. It's a vicious circle because, as more people look for accommodation, property rents are put up even higher and they get squeezed out.

"We are working closely with housing associations to help ease the situation. It's a situation of concern but the council doing what it can within its capabilities."

Robert Davidson, portfolio holder for housing at Colchester Borough Council, said he was surprised at the figures and added that the authority was "proud" of its achievements in tackling homelessness and had reached Government targets.

He said: "At the moment we have no families in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. We have managed to find them more permanent homes and give them more security.

"It takes about two months to process their application but until we know they are due a house we have to give them a roof in the meantime.

"Single males are the lowest priority and most of those are housed outside Colchester, mainly in the Tendring area, while the more vulnerable, who are higher priority are in our own accommodation.

"We were the only district council out of seven authorities in the county which were recognised for our efforts by the Government in April so I am surprised we are still labelled one of the worse performers."

Iris Johnson, portfolio holder for housing at Tendring District Council, said: "We are working on a homelessness strategy and one of the projects we have at the moment is to employ a special project officer to work with young homeless people about the reasons why they become homeless and to try liaison in order to keep them together if possible.

"We feel we will be able to get on top of the problem and are working in partnership with other agencies to one day be able to eliminate it entirely."

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