£4m to be spent on new flats to tackle Portsmouth's ‘hidden homeless’ problem

£4M of taxpayers' money could be spent on 23 new flats to house some of the city's 'hidden homeless.'

Tuesday, 22nd January 2019, 8:13 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:19 pm
Carole Damper, chief executive officer at The Roberts CentrePicture: Sarah Standing (161721-9894)

A temporary accommodation block on the defunct Southsea Community Centre site in King Street promises to be a lifeline for those threatened with living on the street, who cost more than £1m to put up in bed and breakfasts last year.

The proposal comes as part of Portsmouth council's draft homelessness strategy to help people in the city who aren't sleeping rough but are at risk of doing so and are either sofa surfing, in temporary accommodation or at the end of a private tenancy.

City housing boss, Councillor Darren Sanders, explained how important the site would be. 'The amount of money we're spending on temporary accommodation is significant as we don't have enough council-owned sites and are having to rely on bed and breakfasts,' he said.

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Carole Damper, chief executive officer at The Roberts CentrePicture: Sarah Standing (161721-9894)

'But we're not suggesting it for that reason. We want to provide a better service. Living in just a room without your own kitchen is not practical and not sustainable.'

The proposal, which will be brought forward for decision at a meeting on January 29, comes as part of the council's draft homelessness strategy which will be open for feedback from both members of the public and experts.

Cllr Sanders said: 'The council cannot do this alone. That is why we want to start a citywide discussion on the best ways forward. We have ideas of our own but need to hear from anyone with interest or expertise.'

The strategy is also intended to target the city's housing shortfall by working with owners of empty homes as as well as linking the council with services for people leaving the armed forces, hospital, prison or care to flag up those needing help.

Between April 2016 and March 2018 more than 2,800 homeless applications were submitted to the council, with 50 per cent of these due to private tenancies ending.

For Carole Damper, chief executive of Portsmouth homeless charity The Roberts Centre, this was to be expected. She said: 'We have had four years of cuts, benefits have been frozen and despite inflation over the last 10 years wages haven't risen. On top of that rent, especially in the private sector, has gone up.

'Asking the public about what can be done is a good idea but it will have to be about what's possible while remembering that each situation is different.'

Portsmouth council currently owns 59 individual temporary accommodation units. If approved the Southsea Community Centre site would be the first custom built block.

The site could also be used for social or supported housing, which will be considered at the meeting on January 29.

Consultation on the draft strategy is open between January 30 and April 30. Responses should be sent to [email protected]