30 July 2019

Westminster Council could recruit “community champions” to alert when friends and family are in danger of becoming homeless.

It is a lot harder to help someone who has already lost their home, according to the council.

The authority instead wants to continue tackling the problem by helping people when they start showing early signs of being “at risk”.

Councillor Andrew Smith, cabinet member for housing, 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.” 

The council has launched a public consultation on the new policy, which forms part of its Housing Strategy.

Local groups who want to become “community champions” will be asked to sign up to a Homelessness Prevention Charter and declare their interest.

The announcement follows the success of a new Early Intervention Service that has helped reduce the number of people becoming homeless. Last year, staff reached out to 220 people identified as at risk. The council said 99 per cent of them did not end up homeless.

Research by the council found the main reason why people in Westminster become homeless was being evicted by friends or family, which accounted for 44 per cent of cases.

Loss or eviction from a private-rented home was the second most common reason, followed by leaving their home following a relationship breakdown. Many of these people end up in temporary accommodation, costing the council millions per year in private-rent bills.

The council said it has a separate strategy in place to help those sleeping rough on the street, the vast majority of whom become homeless elsewhere before moving to areas such as the West End.

The council spends £7 million a year helping rough sleepers, more than any other local authority in the country.

You can take part in the consultation by clicking here.

Source: MyLondon