Council spends thousands on homeless people

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NEARLY £78,000 has been spent by Portsmouth City Council providing emergency shelter for homeless people in less than two years.

The council paid £77,870.89 to the Keppel’s Head Hotel, on The Hard, Portsmouth, between April 2009 and January this year.

Based on the cost of one single room, per night, over the period, this means almost six homeless people were put up in the hotel, every night, on average.

But the council says it has no choice but to continue the arrangements.

Its housing operations manager Elaine Bastable said: ‘We have a duty to house people who come to us as homeless and we must find them somewhere suitable to shelter.

‘They stay at the Keppel’s Head while we can judge their need, at which point we find them other places to stay, or take other action.’

The people who benefit from the scheme are not all people who have spent time sleeping rough on the city’s streets.

They also include people whose homes have been damaged by fire or floods, victims of domestic violence and in some cases those who have come from outside the council’s boundaries.

Ms Bastable said: ‘All sorts of things can leave people without shelter.

‘This ensures we’re looking after people. In most cases they return home, or are moved to alternative council housing.

‘If we discover someone has come to us from outside Portsmouth, if they have lived somewhere else for the past six months, or three-fifths of the last year, and has strong links to another area, such as close family members living there, we will advise them to go there for help.’

The average stay at the hotel is four weeks, and the stays are on a bed-and-breakfast basis.

The council has a two-thirds discount at the hotel, reducing a single room rate from £65 to £21.33 per night.

Ms Bastable said: ‘We can’t set a budget, as it’s based entirely on immediate demand. We can’t predict how much we’ll need to spend. For the same reason, it wouldn’t be cost effective, or fair to people on our housing waiting lists, to shelter people in council housing, as the chances are they will be almost empty at some times, and too full at others, so we’d then have to pay for people to stay in hotels, as we do now.’

No-one at the Keppel’s Head was available to comment.