Fresh plan revealed to tackle homelessness in Portsmouth

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Leaders are ‘feeling positive’

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A campaign has been launched to drive down the number of homeless people in Portsmouth.

The city council has teamed up with The Society of St James to offer a new, linked approach to tackling the area’s homeless crisis.

The key, says the authority, is tackling the addiction problems many people on the streets face.

The Society of St James charity – which helps thousands of people living on the streets across Hampshire – has won the contract to run Portsmouth’s homeless day service provision alongside its own rehabilitation programme for those battling drink and drug addiction.

City leaders hope this, combined with the new emergency winter beds programme and the council’s own homelessness task force, will help to cut the number of people living rough to record lows.

Tory council leader Donna Jones said this new link was a good start, but stressed the city’s problem remained a complex and challenging one.

She said: ‘This is a very serious situation we are facing.

‘The reason we have got more homeless people now is because drugs and alcohol are more rife on the streets than ever before.

‘It is a terrible situation. For many, the focus is about how they’re going to get their next fix of cocaine or heroin.’

She added those homeless people who were addicted to drugs where unable to stay in traditional hostels and tended to end up back on the streets.

‘This isn’t about housing or money, this is about supporting people’s mental health needs,’ Cllr Jones said.

Trevor Pickup, chief executive of The Society of St James, said the new contract was a key stepping stone in helping to tackle the area’s homelessness crisis.

He said: ‘We have been overwhelmed by the number of people turning up for accommodation. There are about 36 people every night at the emergency shelter – we’re running at full capacity.’

The council is spending £615,900 on homeless support in the financial year 2016/17.

Its new task force is the first of its kind in Portsmouth.

It is being spearheaded by Councillor Paul Godier, who himself lived on the streets for several years as a teenager.

The group’s main aim is to find out more about the factors that lead to people sleeping rough and see how the council and its partners can help to prevent this.

Their findings are expected to be revealed next month.