CONCERNS over the growing number of homeless people in Portsmouth have prompted calls for the city to ‘remember its social conscience’.
Lib Dem councillor Rob Wood is urging the city council to do more to support those living rough on the streets.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We really need to remember our social consciousnessCouncillor Rob Wood, Liberal Democrat
He says an £8m investment by the authority last year on a warehouse in Gloucestershire was sucking cash away from those in need in the city.
Speaking to The News, he said homelessness was increasing, adding: ‘The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We really need to remember our social conscience.’
Larry Sevitt, 76, of Portsmouth, brought the concerns to Cllr Wood’s attention after seeing a young woman living rough in Commercial Road.
Mr Sevitt said: ‘There’s absolutely no caring whatsoever and it’s quite disturbing.’
Cllr Wood is now urging the council to think ‘more carefully’ about future ‘speculative investments’.
‘There are better ways this cash could be put to use in the city,’ he added.
Elaine Bastable, the council’s housing options manager, said there was plenty of support in the city for those that needed it, through services like Central Point.
She added the city had more than 200 supported housing units for homeless people as well as emergency beds, too.
She said: ‘The reasons why people sleep rough are often very complex and not purely a housing need.
‘Sometimes people do not want to engage with the help and support available and some are unable to sustain the accommodation provided.’
She confirmed there had been a rise in the number of people sleeping rough, from eight in 2015, to 15 this year.
However, she said the council was aware of these people.
Councillor Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, added the council expected to make £400,000 profit in property investments outside the city.
He said this would help towards off-setting some of the £11m saving needed for 2016/17.
‘Without these investments we would have to re-open the budget and take another half a million out of expenditure,’ he explained.
‘I know some people think that this money could be spent on services instead but that’s a fallacy. You cannot just borrow money and spend it without some means of repaying the loan.’