The number of homeless people in Peterborough has risen by 56 per cent.
Peterborough City Council’s assistant director for housing, communities and youth Sarah Ferguson told the authority’s Adults & Communities Scrutiny Committee on Monday: “We were expecting something in the region of 1,500 to 1,700 homeless persons to present themselves to the council for help and support in 2018/19, which would’ve been an increase of 38 per cent on the previous year.
“However, due to a number of factors, that figure rose to 2,355 presentations of homeless persons seeking help, an increase of 56 per cent.
“There are many reasons for the increase: a huge rise in Section 21 notices being issued by landlords on their tenants, the loss of a job and the breakdown of the family.
“Whatever the reasons behind the increase, it has put an enormous strain on the support systems that we currently have in place.”
Ms Ferguson was addressing the members as part of the Peterborough City Council ‘Homelessness Reduction Strategy 2018-2020’.
She added: “The introduction by the Government of the Homeless Reduction Act 2018 means that all authorities are now statute-bound to do whatever they can to reduce the numbers of homeless persons in their area.
“The average cost of a homeless person in Peterborough is £16,000 per annum, and so obviously we want to reduce that number as quickly but efficiently as possible.
“If we just keep passing them from B&B to poor rented accommodation, the problem reinvents itself and they just reappear on the list needing even more help.”
Cllr Ray Bisby was particular concerned: “My worry is that as more and more people require help from the authority we are placing an undue strain on agencies who are there to try and help, such as the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and the prison service.
“When somebody is released from prison they should be ‘picked up’ by the system and helped almost immediately, but this simply isn’t happening.
“With the DWP, we all know that you can’t get a job until you have secure accommodation, but you can’t afford secure accommodation without money from a job – a classic Catch 22 scenario.”
Ms Ferguson said: “The partnerships with other agencies are working, but at full capacity. In an ideal world a prisoner would be referred to an agency 56 days before they are released.
“The problem is that this simply isn’t happening and often a prisoner will be released with only one day’s notice being given to the authority.”
Cllrs John Fox and Nigel Simons both said that they believe this group has the hardest task of any group within Peterborough City Council, and that they should be praised for the work that they do, and that any additional help that can be given by the authority to them should be made available as soon as possible.