Homelessness rates slashed by new policy

A HOMELESSNESS strategy in one part of Suffolk has successfully slashed the number of people living on the streets, it emerged today.When Babergh District Council launched its strategy in 2004 there were 268 people classed as homeless in the area.

A HOMELESSNESS strategy in one part of Suffolk has successfully slashed the number of people living on the streets, it emerged today.

When Babergh District Council launched its strategy in 2004 there were 268 people classed as homeless in the area.

Now that figure has fallen by more than three quarters to just 63 people.

Chris Foti, the council's head of community development, said: “We changed the way we tackled homelessness.

“We used to simply wait until someone was homeless and then deal with it.

“Now we engage with people who come to us before they become homeless so we can do something beforehand.

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“This happens in many ways including negotiating with a building society, because people can put their heads in the sand and not try to deal with the problems.

“The idea is to prevent homelessness happening.

“We don't always manage it and we haven't eradicated homelessness but it is important we continue with this approach.”

Babergh's overview and scrutiny (community services) committee will now decide on Tuesday whether to continue with the pro-active approach, as recommended by the council's housing panel.

This will include deciding if it should fund a full time homelessness prevention officer from the council's budget, a post which had been paid for by the government since 2004.

It will also determine if a new policy, also designed to tackle homelessness and housing shortages, should be approved.

It would see a private sector leasing scheme introduced so private landlords lease property to social landlords approved by the council to house people waiting for social housing.

Mr Foti said: “This is aimed at someone who is thinking of renting their house, because they might have an empty house, but don't want the hassle of managing it.

“Under this scheme we would take away that hassle for them and then rent the house as affordable housing.”

To take part in Babergh's private sector leasing scheme if it is implemented by the committee contact David Clarke on 01473 825761.

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