Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Homelessness rises by a ‘shocking’ 20 per cent in Thurrock

THERE has been a “shocking” 20 per cent increase in homelessness in Thurrock thanks to rent increases and a lifting of a ban on evictions during the Covid outbreak reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

At a meeting of Thurrock Council’s housing overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, Ewelina Sorbjan, interim director of housing gave councillors an update on homelessness in the borough. She said “Anyone approaching the council with a potential homelessness situation we’re being asked to help with placements. It’s been steadily growing and in the last few weeks it is getting more and more busy in that area unfortunately so we’re definitely seeing more approaches.

“The reason is that we are dealing with backlogs of possession cases. Possession proceedings were halted during the pandemic and some time after to help people stay in their homes and once the courts opened there was still a bit of backlog so we are seeing a lot more presentations.”

She added: “At this moment in time we are seeing presentations from people whose landlords have put their rent up in the private sector.”

Ms Sorbjan said the council had “big ambitions to eradicate rough sleeping altogether” and revealed 11 rough sleepers had been found accommodation within hours in a recent cold spell
She said: “There’s absolutely no need for anyone to be sleeping rough in Thurrock. We really are very well prepared and set up to pick up anyone and help.”

However, John Kent, leader of the Labour Group, said: “The increase in homeless applications of 20 per cent in two years is shocking and it’s not one of the problems that’s going to go away or get an better anytime soon. I’d like some comfort in the current climate there is going to be sufficient resource to make sure that we help everybody that needs help.”

The council is legally now prevented from spending any money other than for statutory services after declaring a s114 notice that it could no longer balance its books because of a £469million deficit due to bad investments made by the council.

A report to councillors said: “The increase in the number of approaches from residents in relation to homelessness represents a significant financial risk to the council.
“The acquisition of open market properties in order to find permanent accommodation solutions and increase the level of council owned housing is not available to the council in the following financial years due to legislative and financial constraints.”

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