Housing chief promises 'exciting plans' to tackle homelessness
- Credit: FDC/YouTube/Wisbech Town Council/Archant
Tackling rough sleeping and homelessness remains a priority, a senior housing chief told Wisbech Town Council.
Councillors were brought up to date on how Fenland District Council is intent on solving the problem.
They heard an update from Dan Horn, head of housing and neighbourhood services at Fenland Council, on rough sleeping and homelessness in the town.
He said: “We don’t think we have solved the problem, but we are always looking to make it work.
“We have exciting plans to help develop the partnerships to create options for people who have become or at risk of rough sleeping."
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Mr Horn said Fenland Council is working with 57 rough sleepers as part of its Covid-19 response, and that lateral flow testing will be offered to rough sleepers and those in temporary accommodation later this month.
His online seminar came nine days after ideas tabled by Cllr Dave Patrick to support 50 Backpacks Vision, including a ‘homelessness summit’ were rejected at a town council meeting.
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Town clerk Terry Jordan confirmed that talks led by council leader, Cllr Sam Hoy, about a separate seminar on homelessness were ongoing with Fenland Council before town councillors met on February 1.
Mr Jordan said: “The seminar was not in response to Cllr Patrick’s proposition and councillors had not been informed by February 1 that a seminar was being proposed.”
Between April and December last year, Fenland Council made 174 preventions of rough sleeping and homelessness through privately-rented, social and supported housing or decided to stay at home.
Fenland Council also aims to secure over £1.4 million as part of its next steps accommodation programme to help rough sleepers, but frustration loomed over the true scale of the problem.
Cllr Hoy said: “I’ve been on the last three rough sleeper counts and last year, we knew there were 18 people in the night shelter but we’re not allowed to count them.
“We know there are more people rough sleeping and that’s frustrating.”
On its latest bi-monthly rough sleeper count on January 21, Fenland Council reported that just three were identified.
Mr Horn admitted “you do get failures”, but advised town councillors to encourage more people to report to them if they see any rough sleepers themselves.
The idea of setting up homeless pods similarly to those in Cambridge was also highlighted, something Mr Horn said would be considered.
Cllr Andrew Lynn, one councillor who rejected Cllr Patrick’s proposals, praised Mr Horn and his seven-strong team on trying to alleviate homelessness in Wisbech and surrounding areas.
Cllr Lynn said: “I think there is a misconception in our community about what is being done, but you’ve highlighted that everyone wants to see a result with homelessness.”
The topic of homelessness was discussed during a WTC meeting when Cllr Patrick wanted an apology for potentially disparaging comments on social media about 50 Backpacks and its work to help homeless people in the town.
The comment related to WTC choosing not to refer residents to 50 Backpacks if they needed support during the current lockdown.
Cllr Patrick, who attended the Fenland Council seminar, said: “You made a decision not to refer people to 50 Backpacks and I think it was taken out of context as I think there are people out there who have issues with the person who runs it.”
In reply, Cllr Hoy said WTC does not regret its comment as “we gave the correct information” and that she could not support 50 Backpacks as “they are not a registered organisation”.
Cllr Patrick also wanted £1,000 to be donated by WTC to 50 Backpacks to help continue their efforts for the homeless.
However, after the council was reminded of malicious allegations made to Cllr Steve Tierney by Mr Crowson, Cllr Hoy said tackling homelessness has been taken out of context and accused Simon Crowson of 50 Backpacks of using these issues as a “political football”.
Speaking directly to Cllr Patrick, Cllr Tierney said: “There’s never been an apology from Spike (Simon Crowson) and I will never support that organisation while Spike is in charge and would not want similar treatment to happen to other people.
“I don’t understand why you can’t realise someone who could do what he did, what else can he do? Why can’t you realise what this behaviour could do to a vulnerable person?”