Councillors ‘moved’ by plight of city’s homeless

Councillors, council officers and staff from Society of St James and Salvation Army visiting Portsmouth's homeless night service
Councillors, council officers and staff from Society of St James and Salvation Army visiting Portsmouth's homeless night service

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TOP councillors have been ‘moved’ by the plight of homeless people in the city after they visited an emergency shelter for rough sleepers.

Tory leaders from Portsmouth City Council visited Hope House, in Milton, to find out more about the area’s homelessness crisis.

In a bid to help rough sleepers, the authority funded 45 night shelter beds in the city, from December to March. It has now extended this service throughout the year.

Councillor Donna Jones and her top team visited the Milton-based hostel which has 15 of the beds.

Run by the Salvation Army, it also houses 24 more permanent residents, many of them ex-rough sleepers.

Cllr Jones said: ‘It was very moving to visit this service and learn about the brilliant work done by the dedicated staff. As well as meeting staff we met residents who are benefiting from what is on offer and heard from them.

‘This was an eye-opening experience for all of us.

‘Those of us who are fortunate to have permanent homes can never really grasp the full reality of street homelessness. But by visiting Hope House we learned a lot.’

Joining Cllr Jones on the visit were fellow cabinet members, Cllr Hannah Hockaday, Cllr Robert New, Cllr Luke Stubbs, Cllr Linda Symes, Cllr Simon Bosher and Cllr Frank Jonas.

Before visiting Hope House, the councillors visited the Portsmouth homeless day service, at nearby Yew House, for a briefing on street homelessness by the Salvation Army and the charity Society of St James (SSJ).

The SSJ runs the day service and the other 30 night shelter places. To use the night shelter service, people need to book a space with the day service.

After spending the night at a shelter, they can visit the day service for breakfast, a shower and professional rehabilitation support.

If people are from out of town, staff help them to re-establish contact with services in their local area.

Cllr Jones said she made a commitment 18 months ago to improving homelessness and that the council is striving to find long-term solutions to homelessness.

She added: ‘Ultimately it will involve a lot more than just providing beds. Our visit will help us understand the situation and will be useful as we implement a city-wide strategy.’

Residents can help those who are street homeless, or find out more about services, with the council’s new Street Support Portsmouth website and app. For details, see streetsupport.net/portsmouth