By Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter
An “ambitious” action plan to ensure no rough sleepers end up back on the streets without a housing offer has been approved by Wandsworth councillors, as lockdown measures begin to ease.
At the borough’s housing committee last week, councillors endorsed a ‘housing first’ programme which will aim to move homeless people straight into an independent tenancy, rather than the usual pathway through hostels.
The report said “intensive and ongoing support will be essential to ensure tenancies are sustained” to reduce the risk of people becoming homeless again in the future.
So far 130 rough sleepers have been accommodated during the pandemic, as part of the council’s ‘Housing First’ and ‘Housing for All’ programmes.
Councillor Kim Caddy, cabinet member for housing, said: “Covid-19 has given us a once-in-a generation opportunity to support our rough sleepers to get off the streets and into sustainable tenancies.
“At the heart of this lies a ‘housing first’ principle to make sure everyone has an offer of accommodation to keep them safe during this crisis.
“The council has taken a multi-agency approach and is offering ongoing support for health issues, employment, further education, immigration and benefit advice to help individuals turn their lives around – a tailored and personalised approach.”
It is thought that between 25 and 35 people currently housed under the scheme would ordinarily be entitled to the council’s direct support under homelessness legislation, and will be provided with temporary accommodation in the normal way.
In addition to this, the borough’s lettings plan for 2020/21 includes 20 offers of social housing to rough sleepers nominated to the council by the local homelessness charity SPEAR as being ‘tenancy ready.’
These offers will now be brought forward to the first and second quarters of the year to reduce spending on the current hotel provision.
Officers have also been asked to find an additional 15 to 20 private sector properties before the end of August.
These measures are estimated to house roughly 70 of the rough sleepers currently accommodated by the council.
However, the report reinforced the need to use between £100,000 to £175,000 from the Discretionary Housing Payment fund for 2020/21 to support the rehousing of rough sleepers.
This is because “the overwhelming majority” of rough sleepers are not working and subject to the total welfare benefit cap once housed, making accommodation “potentially unaffordable and therefore unsustainable”.
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