Homelessness rate shows third highest climb in England
From 2009/10 to the latest figures, the number of people classified as homeless leapt from five to 61.
The rate increase over three years is a “shocking” 1,120 per cent, and in 240 per cent in the last year.
A drop in money spent on tackling the problem combined with escalating levels of personal debt and redundancies has been blamed.
Data experts SSentif completed a national and regional analysis of homelessness rates and broke the data down into local authority level, where West Berkshire was listed as having a higher percentage increase than every other district in England except Maidstone and Broxbourne.
The managing director of SSentif, Judy Aldred, said spending on homelessness had dropped in England from £213.7m to £199.8m between 2009/10 and 2010/11, which tallied up with the rise in those sleeping rough nationwide.
“Whilst these figures are perhaps not surprising given the state of the economy, some of the results for specific councils are quite shocking.
“By analysing the data at council level we were able to highlight some areas that are showing much greater increases than the national average,” she said.
In response to the crisis plans to tackle the growing number of people sleeping rough on the streets of the district are under way.
West Berkshire Council is legally obliged to provide emergency housing for ‘priority’ groups without a home, such as those with dependent children.
The Liberal Democrat spokesman for housing, Tony Vickers (Northcroft) has been pushing for a task group to look into the problem for well over a year, and with a new executive portfolio holder in place, Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South), a cross-party consensus has been reached and resources will be put into a new policy.
Mr Vickers said he hoped the process of forming a task group would be speeded up but was pleased that the council was finally waking up to the problem having pressed for action to be taken for some time.
The strategy will be drawn up by the Housing Service before going out to consultation with various stakeholders including Sovereign Housing Association and local shelters.
Families and individuals who have been affected will also have input.
The portfolio holder for housing, Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South), said: “We are acutely aware of the issue and we are working on a new policy.
“There is a requirement to put a new strategy together and we will do that.
There is the homelessness forum which includes several members, West Berkshire is one, but that is more operational in terms of "what will we do with this individual?" so it will be good to have a strategy in place. We are provisionally looking at the end of the summer by the time to begin the consultation.
“I have seen an early draft and will be giving my input over the coming weeks. It will go to consultation and we will listen to everybody's ideas, it will be great to get a wide range of ideas on this.”