Homelessness crisis in the Portsmouth area

A HOMELESSNESS crisis is gripping our area, with more people living rough than ever before.

Monday, 21st March 2016, 6:03 am
Phil Hancock is given a hot meat pie by a passer-by

Statistics show homelessness has worsened from five years ago.

In Portsmouth, 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.

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And the view from volunteers working to help the homeless is that the situation is as bad as ever, with one volunteer describing it as ‘out of control’.

Community leaders say more needs to be done to get people off the streets and back into secure and safe accommodation.

A sad reflection of just how bad things have got is homeless people living in tents across the Havant area.

The News spoke to Phil Hancock, 33, originally from Leigh Park, who now lives in a tent on the Langstone roundabout, off the A27.

He was living in a tent on Havant Thicket until it was set on fire by thugs and he has been living in a tent among vegetation on the roundabout since October.

Mr Hancock said: ‘You can see the tent from the road.

‘Putting it on the roundabout, I’m shoving it right in the council’s face.

‘It’s cold and it’s rubbish.

‘There’s not enough room and I have to run everything on batteries.

‘I’m not living, I’m just surviving.’

Because he is under 35 and has no children, Mr Hancock is not considered a top priority to be housed according to local authority criteria.

‘There’s shelter in Chichester but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis,’ he said.

‘I would have to walk there, only for them to tell me “no”.’

Mr Hancock relies on people leaving bags of food next to his tent to survive and when The News spoke to him he had eaten just a bag of sweets for breakfast.

Havant Community Homelessness Trust was started last year as a way of applying for grants to help homeless people.

The neediest are provided with laundry cards to get clothes washed and second-hand tents have been given to some, although it is not encouraged.

Tim Dawes, a trustee, said: ‘Unfortunately there’s not the provision so we are increasingly seeing people having to stay for long periods in tents.

‘It’s not just tents. There are people living in cars, people living in garages.’

On people living in tents, he added: ‘I think it’s appalling.

‘Particularly when you have people in their 40s and 50s and they are not in good health.

‘It’s also very unsecure.’

He said charities and the voluntary sector were being left to ‘pick up the pieces’ because of cuts to services and not enough accommodation being on offer.

‘We need more affordable housing,’ said Mr Dawes.

‘We need more first step housing – whether they are run by the council or a private landlord.

‘Would you rather live in a shop doorway or in a flat with other people?

‘It’s another way back into proper society.’

A statement from Havant Borough Council said: ‘Havant Borough Council has a statutory duty to assess homelessness, as well as assist homeless and potentially homeless households with advice and assistance. If anyone is classed as in priority need the council may have a duty to provide temporary accommodation.

‘Working in partnership, we have a Rough Sleeper Outreach worker who holds a ‘drop-in’ every Friday between 10am and 11am at The Beacon in The Meridian Centre, Havant.

‘Havant Borough Council is working with The Beacon to organise a HUB to enable homeless clients to access appropriate assistance, to help them to get into accommodation but ensure they have the support to keep them safe and well while waiting for this to happen.

‘However, on occasions we find that despite offers of help and assistance some rough sleepers will not engage with us and refuse to consider alternative options on offer.

‘In cases such as these the outreach worker will no longer work with these

‘The outreach worker is currently working with five individuals who are considered as rough sleepers.’

The statement added: ‘Each year a national rough sleepers count is carried out in each area with Hampshire authorities all carrying out one on the same night – usually in November.’

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‘We work with any identified rough sleeper to assess what their needs are and in partnership with other organisations to try to find solutions.’