Coronavirus lockdown 'shows homelessness can be addressed long-term'

Action taken during the coronavirus pandemic shows that homelessness in Wakefield can be tackled effectively, a senior council officer has said.

Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 4:45 pm
Thousands of rough sleepers were taken off the streets at the start of lockdown.

Thousands of rough sleepers across the UK were taken off the streets at the start of lockdown and put up in emergency accommodation, after the government released more cash.

Pontefract councillor David Jones said the move had had a "major impact" locally.

But speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday, he suggested the situation had regressed since lockdown was eased.

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The government has pledged more money to councils to help them tackle rough sleeping, but officials in Wakefield say that's yet to filter through.

Neil Warren, Wakefield Council's chief finance officer, said that the local authority was still waiting to receive money from the government to extend provision for homeless people to next year.

He also suggested that the effect of work done in the spring, showed homelessness could be addressed in the long-term.

Councillor Jones said: "Being able to support homeless people and rough sleepers, it had a really positive impact and many people here welcomed it.

"What do you see the future of this being because the government did announce a £63m increase in funding through until next March?

"But I'm starting to see people now back where they shouldn't be."

Mr Warren responded: "The government has announced additional monies, but I don't think we've received it yet.

"It's a tricky one, bevcause the council has a good track record of supporting homeless people and rough sleepers. We do all we can to support them.

"But I don't think we have enough resources to do all the intervention work we would want to do.

"To be honest, the pandemic just shows what can be done by local authorities, in conjunction with community hubs, when we get that money.

"I certainly think it's an area where we can learn the lessons and try to replicate it in the long-term."

A total of 216 people in the district were being put up in temporary accommodation around Christmas time.

Coun Jones said: "I think it's important we continue to draw attention to this.

"It's often the case with this government that money is announced and then it either doesn't arrive, or it comes in a different format.

"I do think it's important that we continue to lobby on behalf of homeless and vulnerable people so they do get that support.

"As we've seen it has had a major impact in our communities."

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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