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Homelessness in Guildford Is An Increasing Problem – But the Council Are On The Case

Published on: 26 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 30 Oct, 2012

Brian, a homeless man in Guildford this week

Homelessness in Guildford is on the increase and the continuing economic climate as well as the government’s impending welfare reform are unlikely to relieve the pressure.

This is the background for a new strategy for the prevention of homelessness that is being drawn up by Guildford Borough Council (GBC). The subject was discussed at length by a Scrutiny Committee at Guildford Borough Council on Tuesday evening (October 23) within a presentation by the Council Officer, Kim Rippett, who is Head of Housing Advice Services.

Ms Rippett started by looking back a decade to 2001/2 when there were 465 homeless applications 148 of which were accepted and there were 180 households in temporary accommodation. Then in 2003 the first homeless prevention strategy was launched.

Successes are claimed. The service is felt, by those providing it, to be responsive and pro active. GBC provide the funding for a Money Advice Service provided by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau; they run a Homeless Outreach and Support Team (HOST); there is joint working with several other agencies; and there is investment in affordable housing.

Overall the measures allow for a considerable number of homelessness prevention. In 2011/12 there were 592 such cases. Three of the common reasons given for homelessness are: eviction by family or friend, loss of private rented accommodation and relationship breakdown.

Unsurprisingly, after a period in the mid noughties when there were very few homeless applications numbers, the economic downturn from 2007 onwards means that the number of cases is on the increase. There were 58 applications in 2011/12 of which 18 were accepted, and 52 expected this year, of which it is anticipated, 12 will be accepted.

Although numbers in temporary accommodation are still far lower that the 180 in 2002/3, they are creeping back up from a low point of just 5 in 2008/9 and are expected to be 36 in 2012/13. Bed &Breakfast is one of the options used in emergencies. Last year there were 48 placements at an average weekly cost to the council this year of £334.

Major challenges remain. There continues to be a major shortfall in the supply of social housing.

And the number of rough sleepers is on an upward trend. The average of rough sleepers in Guildford each night has increased from five last year to nine this year. Only a small number of the rough sleepers are long term, most sleep rough only until a better option is provided. It is an aspiration that no rough sleeper in Guildford will need to spend a second night out.

A large majority of those dealt with by the Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST) have local connections if not to Guildford then to Surrey but there is a small but increasing number who come from the EU, mainly Eastern Europe.

GBC are now starting to develop their homelessness prevention strategy for the next five years. The major concern is the possible impact of the Government’s welfare reform programme but other factors being considered are: the local economy and housing markets; economic migration; slow down in affordable housing development; funding sources and increased pressure on partner agencies.

Those involved in the review are asking themselves the following questions:

  • Are the priorities right?
  • How can people be encouraged to seek help sooner?
  • How can  closer working with private landlords be achieved?
  • Can more be done to prevent rough sleeping?
  • Is the best use being made of the voluntary/faith sectors?
  • What could be improved?

Comments were invited from all three political parties but none have been received. See also ‘The Life of Brian – In Guildford’.

What do you think about the problem of homelessness in Guildford should more be done or are the council already doing enough? Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.

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Responses to Homelessness in Guildford Is An Increasing Problem – But the Council Are On The Case

  1. Andrew Norman

    October 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I appreciated the reflection on homelessness in Guildford and especially the thoughtful interview with Brian in Jeffries Passage. When you encounter someone like him (if anyone is like anyone else in this sort of circumstance) the dilemma is always ‘what am I actually seeing?’. Greater awareness for us all about what causes homelessness is urgently needed – so The Guildford Dragon NEWS is performing a valuable service. Thank you.

    I was also encouraged to read that an aspect of Guildford Borough Council’s review is going to be whether the best use of voluntary/faith group resources is being made use of. The churches have played a very active role in this field over the years. We founded No 5 and assisted with the Cyrenians hostel in Walnut Tree Close. Our support continues with such agencies and we look for other ways to support the homeless in our local community.

    Father Andrew Norman
    Rector of St Nicolas’