Shropshire rough sleeping numbers at highest in ten years

There are currently more rough sleepers on the streets of Shropshire than any of the previous 10 years, new figures show.

Shropshire Council will discuss the homeless situation next week.
Shropshire Council will discuss the homeless situation next week.

In the last six months, 80 different people have been referred to Shropshire Council’s rough sleeping team, with 22 on the streets as of October 5.

Of these, 17 are in the Shrewsbury area and almost all but two are identified as having issues with their mental health, substance use or alcohol use.

A report to go before a council scrutiny committee next week says a further nine people who were rough sleeping are still in B&B accommodation provided under the government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme launched at the start of the pandemic.

The council is set to carry out its annual rough sleeper count on the night of November 5 which will provide this year’s official snapshot figure. Last year’s count was 16.

All councils across the country have been required to carry out an annual snapshot count since 2010, with Shropshire’s lowest figure being seven in 2015.

The report, by housing services manager Laura Fisher, says: “During the Covid-19 lockdown, Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Ark worked with the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury to house all rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping under the Governments ‘Everyone In’ Scheme.

“At the peak there were 33 individuals housed at the Prince Rupert.

“Some of these individuals have opted to leave the accommodation as the restrictions lessened and unfortunately some have been asked to leave due to their behaviour.

“However, there has been a significant number of positive moves and support is still being provided by both Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Ark where required.”

The report says visible rough sleeping is only a small part of the wider issue of homelessness in the county.

Households

A total of 3,369 households presented to the council in housing need in the year up to September, with 613 being housed by the council in temporary accommodation.

At the peak of the lockdown there were 183 households put up in B&Bs. As of October 5, that figure had fallen to 127, of whom 117 were single person households and 10 were families.

On the same date an additional 101 households were in temporary accommodation – 60 families and 51 single people.

Before the pandemic, the council typically had 70 households placed in B&Bs at any one time, costing the authority £949,000 in 2019/20.

The report says the estimated cost for 2020/21 will be £2.25 million.

The council has been awarded £123,500 from the government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) to fund additional staff until next March and provide 75 extra bed spaces.

The report adds: “We have also requested funding for two capital projects. The first being a renovation of a 13-bed hostel in Shrewsbury and the other being purchase from the open market of five one-bed units.

“There is expected to be additional funding rounds of the NSAP which Shropshire Council hopes to bid for, enabling additional bed spaces to be developed, reducing the use of B&B. This will mean better outcomes for those vulnerable people we support as well as a less expensive option for temporary accommodation for the authority.”

The report will be discussed by the council’s communities overview committee at a meeting on Wednesday.

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