Shropshire's housing services manager sheds light on homelessness

To mark World Homeless Day, Shropshire Council's housing services manager has shed some light on some of the underlying factors putting vulnerable people at risk of losing their home.

In line with the national campaign taking place today, Laura Fisher has spoken on what issues cause residents throughout the county to end up homeless, how her team helps those in need and what the overall mission of the council is.

When asked what can cause homelessness throughout Shropshire, Ms Fisher said: "There are lots of factors, but it’s often a symptom of wider societal issues.

"The increase in families in rental arrears due to the changes in Universal Tax Credits and benefits, a greater reliance on food banks, and private landlords being less understanding than social landlords, can all contribute.

"Another factor is our county’s demographics. In Shropshire, we have a high number of older residents, and many of the county’s younger people go off to university and go into jobs elsewhere, which all impacts on the number of jobs available, which in turn influences these issues.

"We usually find out about someone facing homelessness through the HomePoint register or support agencies who are already in contact with them, but it might be through the individual themselves.

"Some people have a few months’ notice before they’re required to leave a property; others have less than 24 hours – and this dictates the level of support they receive at the time.

"Anyone facing homelessness is allocated a Housing Options officer who’ll provide advice and support throughout the whole process."

At the council's last count, there were 16 rough sleepers in Shropshire.

Ms Fisher said: "Rough sleeping, however, is just the ‘visible’ side of homelessness. You might see someone in a sleeping bag and assume that’s what homelessness is, but it’s just one part of it.

Duty

"We’ve recently set up a Rough Sleeper Team and Dedicated Outreach Workers, who go out daily to provide whatever support is needed, while here at the council, we have a dedicated team who do initial assessments over the phone to determine that person’s situation and needs.

"The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into operation in 2018, saw the biggest change in legislation for the past 40 years – and it’s significantly changed the way we work with people facing homelessness. For instance, we now have a duty of care to anyone facing any type of housing need.

"For some, that may just be providing advice and support on the options available to them.

"For others – such as those who suffer from poor physical or mental health, women who are pregnant and those fleeing domestic violence – we’ll have a greater duty of care, which includes providing emergency and long-term accommodation as it’s needed."

She added: "We share the Government’s goal to eradicate homelessness.

"I believe that’s achievable, and ultimately, we want to eliminate homelessness altogether across Shropshire as soon as possible.

"We’re never going to stop families, couples or individuals from being evicted from their home, or stop the growing need for housing itself, but our aim is to make sure the journey people go through to finding the right accommodation is as easy and stress-free as possible.

"Everybody deserves a home, it’s as simple as that. And we’re here to make sure that happens."

Ms Fisher is responsible for the delivery of housing services within the council, a role that extends across homelessness, temporary accommodation and HomePoint (the social housing waiting list), as well as property conditions (owner occupiers) and Disabled Facilities Grants.

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