2 August 2019

Westminster residents are being asked their views on its strategy to prevent and tackle homelessness in the borough.

In particular, it wants feedback on 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 liaising with resident, faith and community groups that can help spot the signs someone is about to become homeless and refer them to the council’s Early Intervention Trailblazer Service.

Local groups would be asked to sign up to a Homelessness Prevention Charter, pledging to come together to help make a difference.

Councillor Andrew Smith, 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.”

According to council research, the single biggest cause of homelessness in the borough is eviction by family or friends, coming in at 44 per cent, 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.

The town hall says it spends £7million a year on helping rough sleepers, more than any other local authority in the country.

You can read the council’s draft Homelessness Strategy and share your views, by going to www.westminster.gov.uk/sites/default/files/rough_sleeping_strategy.pdf

The consultation closes on Wednesday, September 11.

Source: South London Press