£6 million spent by Telford council to house homeless
Telford & Wrekin Council spent almost £6 million on emergency accommodation for homeless people over a six-year period, new figures show.
And the bill has been rising in recent years.
The cost has included housing people in hotels, bed and breakfasts, private rented accommodation and properties owned by the council.
According to data from the council, £946,439.45 was spent in 2016/17 – a rise of more than 22 per cent from the year before when the total stood at £771,324.72.
It was also up from £726,772.04 in 2014/15.
But the bill has been much higher in previous years, with more than £1.4m spent in 2011/12.
The council says the rise since 2014/15 has been down to the authority taking on more accommodation in a bid to avoid the costly hotel and bed and breakfast options.
And bosses say the numbers of people needing emergency accommodation have also increased.
Telford & Wrekin Council spokesman Russell Griffin said: "The other types of accommodation we use, predominantly so, is either rented accommodation which we lease in or our owned accommodation.
"We have 50 units of accommodation – houses, flats and rooms – which are a mixture of leased and owned properties.
"The increase over the last two years will be due to us taking on more accommodation to prevent where possible the use of bed and breakfast and an increase in number of clients placed in our emergency accommodation."
Despite the recent rising costs, the council's bill for housing people in hotels and bed and breakfasts actually fell to £2,119.87 in 2016/17 from £36,805.61 the year before.
It has dropped considerably since 2011/12 when the figure stood at £373,983.31.
The council's cabinet approved a new homelessness strategy last year.
Its priorities include ensuring that high quality housing advice is accessible and well promoted and to join up council and external services to prevent homelessness arising wherever possible.
It also aims to ensure that temporary accommodation is well managed and meets the needs of the service, ensure people move onto sustainable housing as soon as possible – minimising the use of bed and breakfast accommodation and to work with partners to support vulnerable groups and prevent rough sleeping.
Community enterprise Maninplace, which helps the homeless, provides six beds for emergency accommodation at The Night Inn, Telford.
Managing director Alan Olver said the facility has been full most nights over the past year.
Maninplace has also taken over the Kip project, based in Wellington, which acts as a first response service to the homeless and offers advice and support.
Mr Olver said: "Over the past 12 years homelessness has grown quite considerably.
"I think it's around the lack of affordable accommodation, the council housing stock isn't there anymore, you've got the government making it more difficult for people on benefits and the more stress and strain on people's budgets will have a significant impact on their ability to survive."
From December to February, Maninplace also delivers a severe winter programme in Telford and Wrekin for those rough sleeping and homeless.
It can provide 'sit ups' where people are given the opportunity to come inside during the bad weather.
The programme was due to end on Thursday, but it has now been extended due to the severe weather snap.
The Stay homeless charity in Telford also says it has introduced a homeless outreach co-ordinator in recent years to liaise with and offer advice to rough sleepers on the streets.
The Homelessness Reduction Act also comes into play next month, meaning councils will have new responsibilities to try and tackle homelessness.