Portsmouth council begins housing all of city's 200 rough sleepers in 'once in a lifetime' move
HOMELESS people in Portsmouth will be put up in empty student accommodation blocks as the city council starts a scheme to make sure all rough sleepers have a roof over their head.
Following emergency measures amid the coronavirus lockdown that meant 200 homeless people were housed in city hotels, the council is now seeking more 'secure' self-contained accommodation for anyone who needs it.
So far 40 people have been found private rented homes and 60 others have moved into shared housing.
And it is planned a further 110 people will be housed in three blocks in Elm Grove and St Michael's Road, in Southsea, on a 12-month lease while more permanent homes are found. The flats had been used as student homes but the private owners believe they will not be needed due to the pandemic.
The project will be funded by a portion of a £105m government grant, although it's not known yet how much Portsmouth will be given.
Councillor Darren Sanders, Portsmouth City Council's housing boss, described it as a 'once in a lifetime chance.'
He said: 'Every rough sleeper is a human being, not a statistic, and these ambitious plans come after listening to and assessing every person we are housing.
'This package enables us to offer secure, safe accommodation to those who want it while we work with partners on plans we want to last for years.
'It is clear from listening to rough sleepers that they want support, not just a place to live, and that is what we will offer. The package also means we can continue to provide council homes for those we have a legal duty to house and the many on our waiting list.'
Support will still be available from homelessness charities Society of St James (SSJ) and Two Saints as well as access to specialist help for those with substance misuse issues.
A handful of people will also return to the council's former night shelters, which have been adapted to meet Covid-19 distancing requirements. These previously housed up to 57 people a night and can now only accommodate 20.
The chief executive of SSJ, Trevor Pickup, said: 'There's huge demand for the accommodation. Within the group of rough sleepers in Portsmouth there are some people who can live independently and who can do their own cooking and budgeting - they just need somewhere safe to live, whereas others need a high level of support. The self-contained accommodation is what we are really short of.'
The Ibis hotels in Winston Churchill Avenue, in Somers Town, and Fratton Way, in Fratton, were secured by the council as emergency accommodation during the pandemic. Those staying at the Winston Churchill Avenue venue have already been rehoused.
It is planned those living in the Fratton Way hotel - which had sparked controversy as neighbours reported incidents of anti-social behaviour and noise from the hotel to the police - will be moved to their new homes by the end of September.