THE campaign to tackle the homelessness crisis that’s taken hold in the Portsmouth area has stepped up a gear.
Councillor Paul Godier is to spearhead a cross-party group tasked with looking at what can be done to stop the surge in rough sleepers and get them the help they need to get back on their feet.
As a council we’re all concerned with what appears to be a growing issue of rough sleepers in our city centre. We can’t ignore people on our streets and need to find ways to help those who often have complex situations.Portsmouth councillor Paul Godier
The board will meet to tackle current issues and find ways to help support the city’s most vulnerable, while making sure anti-social behaviour is addressed and residents’ concerns are heard.
It comes after shocking figures revealed in Portsmouth alone, the number of people sleeping rough has trebled, while in Havant the figure has doubled.
In Fareham and Gosport, anecdotal reports suggest the problem has also worsened.
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes has also been called on to help.
Cllr Godier, who slept rough during his teenage years, said: ‘As a council we’re all concerned with what appears to be a growing issue of rough sleepers in our city centre.
‘We can’t ignore people on our streets and need to find ways to help those who often have complex situations.
‘This board will bring together not only councillors from all parties, but officers who are experts in dealing with mental health, substance misuse, housing and town centre management.
‘Everyone coming together will help identify ways we can make real change.’
The first meeting of the board will be held in May.
Cllr Donna Jones, council leader, appointed Cllr Godier, an independent, to the position. Cllr Jones said: ‘This is a vital piece of work for the most vulnerable in the city.
‘I’ll be writing to group leaders asking for their involvement so we can achieve a cross party consensus.
‘Homelessness, rough sleeping and begging are all complex issues. While we have a robust strategy to help those who unfortunately find themselves homeless, those with more challenging needs can find it difficult to hold down a tenancy.
Residents agree the council has got to get more firm.
Vanessa Ellis, of Portchester, was shocked when she visited Commercial Road.
She said: ‘There is a person camped outside the former Martha’s pub in an igloo tent with a bit of carpet, and still asking for money. Nothing is being done about it.
‘The council isn’t firm enough with people.’