Homelessness worse than in parts of London

Homelessness is increasing in Blackpool
Homelessness is increasing in Blackpool
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The number of people who find themselves homeless in Blackpool is higher than some London boroughs, a new report has revealed.

Each year around 2,500 households in the resort seek help from the council because they have either lost their accommodation or are in danger losing it.

Jane Hugo of Streetlife

Jane Hugo of Streetlife

A report by Andrew Foot, head of housing at Blackpool Council, adds that of those, in the last year 100 households needed emergency help. This figure has leapt from less than 50 just two years ago.

The impact of welfare reforms, transience and tenancies breaking down is blamed for much of the problem.

In his report to the council’s Resilient Communities Scrutiny Committee, Mr Foot says: “Paradoxically, the easy accessibility of homes in the private rented sector and the transience this fuels, leads to high levels of homelessness.

“While it is relatively easy to arrange for a roof over someone’s head to relieve immediate homelessness, there is a tendency in Blackpool for tenancies to continually break down because of the poor quality of accommodation, the poor behaviour of some tenants and the expectation that there will always be somewhere else available.

“This leads to many people getting into cycles of finding and losing their accommodation, often with their chances of getting somewhere decent to stay reducing as they get a reputation for rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.”

He adds: “There has been a significant increase in both assessments and the numbers of households found to be in priority need over the last three years despite continuing prevention work.”

This is in line with national trends.

Since 2011/12 the number of assessments carried out by the council’s housing options team in relation to homelessness has increased from about 300 a year to about 1,000.

Mr Foot says: “The level of assessments for homelessness in Blackpool is relatively high in a national context, similar to cities like Bradford and higher than some London boroughs. It is by far the highest in Lancashire.”

For the first quarter of this year there were 25 households in Blackpool in priority need, compared to 11 in Preston, eight in Lancaster and six in Blackburn.

The last annual count of rough sleepers in Blackpool, last November, found five people sleeping on the streets, but the report estimates there are generally 10 to 15 rough sleepers in the town at any one time.

Jane Hugo, who runs Streetlife from two bases in the resort, which help young homeless adults, said the findings reflected their experience.

She said: “I have not seen the report but I would echo that we are very busy at Streetlife. We are supporting more than 400 young people each year.

“We have seen a particular increase is the number of young people who want intensive one-to-one support, help with benefits, debt and finding employment.

“Even after they move into accommodation, they continue to access the day centre, and we work closely with the Citizens Advice Bureau to help them.”

Outreach work including a seven-year Fulfilling Lives project are among the initiatives in place to tackle the issues.

Coun Andrew Stansfield, vice-chairman of the Resilient Communities Scrutiny Committee, said: “I think we need to encourage people to seek help earlier if they are in danger of losing their accommodation.

“There is no stigma attached if people need help.

“This means people could get the support they need before it gets to crisis point and they become an emergency because there is already a lot of pressure on the council’s short term hostels.”

The council has hostels at Gorton Street and Central Drive.