Westminster residents are being asked their views on a formal strategy to prevent and tackle homelessness, as part of a new consultation by Westminster City Council.
As part of its ten point plan, the council wants to continue its Early Intervention Trailblazer Service, which last year identified and reached out to 220 at risk Westminster residents, 99 per cent of whom did not go on to be homeless.
This service helps spot the early signs someone is about to become homeless and provides support and expert advice, before it is too late.
There is also support in place for those who come forward and tell the council they are at risk of losing their home. Last year the council’s Housing Solutions Service put together 966 plans for individuals and families to help them avoid losing their home, including practical advice on who to speak to and support with employment or finances for example.
However, the major challenge for the council is in identifying people at risk before they lose their home. It is a lot harder for the council to help once people have lost their home, due to the challenges of the London property market.
The council wants to find those at risk, by unlocking the networks of ‘community champions’.
The idea is that by providing training for local leaders from resident, faith and community groups these groups will be able to help spot the signs someone is about to become homeless and refer them to the council’s Early Intervention Trailblazer Service to access support.
Local groups would be asked to sign up to a Homelessness Prevention Charter, pledging to come together to help make a difference.
Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council cabinet member for housing services, said:
“Tackling homelessness means working together. The challenges are huge, but by intervening early we can use our resources more effectively and make an even bigger difference to people’s lives.
“Local communities can have a role to play and may help spot the signs someone is at risk of homeless and refer them to us early enough to get the support they need.”
Why do people become homeless in Westminster
Research show the top reason for homelessness in the borough was eviction by family or friends, coming in at 44%, with loss of private rented sector homes or relationship breakdown second and third respectively.
Many of these people end up in temporary accommodation.
There is a separate strategy already in place to help those sleeping rough on the street, the vast majority of whom become homeless elsewhere, then arrive in Westminster. Westminster City Council spends £7 million a year on helping rough sleepers, more than any other local authority in the country.
Making sure everyone has a safe and good quality home is critical to addressing the overarching issue of homelessness and the council is:
- Building at least 1,850 new affordable homes by 2023
- Making the best use of social housing by offering incentives for under-occupiers to downsize
- Prioritising overcrowded sons and daughters of council tenants for intermediate housing so they have alternative housing options locally
How residents can get in touch
You can read the council’s draft Homelessness Strategy and share your views. The consultation closes on Wednesday 11 September 2019.