Housing boss's 'delight' as council efforts mean more than 80 rough sleepers find housing in former student accommodation
DOZENS of rough sleepers have been housed in former student accommodation bought by Portsmouth City Council.
Councillors were told on Monday that 81 people had been provided housing across three buildings, the March purchase of which was funded through a £4.6 million government grant.
Cabinet member for housing, councillor Darren Sanders, said the council was now ‘a world away’ from the approach it had to homelessness in 2017.
Three blocks of student accommodation - The Registry, Elm Grove Library and Kingsway House - were bought by the council with planning permission for their conversion granted earlier this year.
A report, published ahead of Monday's meeting of the council's cabinet member for homelessness, said ‘extensive’ work had been carried out at each building to make them suitable for housing the homeless.
And speaking at the meeting, Nicola Clannachan, the council's interim head of housing needs, said these had already housed 81 people.
She added that this had also allowed the temporary use of rooms in HMOs (houses in multiple occupation), which began last year in a bid to house people at the start of the pandemic, to be ended.
Cllr Sanders said the council's efforts to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping had been successful.
He said: ‘To my mind, this is one of the best things this council has done in years and I'm delighted to have been a part of it.
‘We are a revolution away from where we were in 2017 when the discussion around homelessness was pretty painful.
‘We need to treat people as individuals and I think that's been one of the great joys of this collective approach.’
The council has also agreed to host a rough sleeper outreach centre from Kingsway House, including moving support services from Yew House.
It comes following the decision of the council to award The Society of St James a three-year contract for its homeless services.
Councillor Cal Corkery, Labour's spokesman for housing, said the projects ‘made sense’ but said preparations needed to be made to continue it beyond the end of the 2024 funding period.
He said: ‘The relocation of the day service is something that makes sense: Bringing it into a more central location in terms of other services, being very close to the Recovery Hub and quite a bit closer to the city centre.
‘But I'm curious about the long-term funding for the service. There is funding in place until 2024 but we need to prepare ourselves for the ongoing costs to sustain it.’
He said the government should provide more consistent funding to councils rather than providing irregular one-off grants.