Tem­po­rary hous­ing for fam­i­lies, refugees and ex-cons con­demned as ‘per­verse’

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Jane Haynes Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

FIVE bed and break­fast ho­tels have banked an as­ton­ish­ing £3.3 mil­lion from Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil last year for pro­vid­ing rooms for the home­less – be­cause of the hous­ing cri­sis.

The Nor­folk Ho­tel in Ha­gley Road, Edg­bas­ton, re­ceived the most tax­payer cash in 2017/18, with its par­ent com­pany net­ting a stag­ger­ing £1.1 mil­lion.

Smithy’s Ho­tel and Ethan B&B, both also on the Ha­gley Road, Rugby House in Slade Road, Erd­ing­ton, and Blue­bell Guest House, in Yard­ley, also head an­nual spend­ing for emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion.

In to­tal, the five B&Bs have re­ceived £3.34 mil­lion from Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil’s home­less ser­vices – a sit­u­a­tion de­scribed as “ap­palling” by city MPs.

To­gether, the busi­nesses pro- vide emer­gency hous­ing for the city’s home­less and those on the verge of home­less­ness, in­clud­ing young fam­i­lies, ex-pris­on­ers, peo­ple flee­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, drug ad­dicts, refugees and al­co­holics.

It comes at a time when more than 160 fam­i­lies are cur­rently stranded in Birm­ing­ham B&Bs and ho­tel rooms for more than six weeks, with thou­sands more stay­ing for short pe­ri­ods be­fore mov­ing on.

Some B&Bs are now earn­ing so much in coun­cil pay­ments for home­less peo­ple that they seem­ingly no longer bother tak­ing tourists or busi­ness vis­i­tors.

One staff mem­ber at Ethan B&B, who an­swered a call from the Birm­ing­ham Post, said: “We are al­ways full, we don’t take tele­phone book­ings any­more.”

De­spite be­ing the high­est earner from the coun­cil, the Nor­folk Ho­tel, part of Beans Hous­ing Ltd, re­ceives just a 1.5-star rat­ing on the TripAd­vi­sor re­view web- site, with some un­know­ing cus­tomers com­plain­ing about con­di­tions.

MPs whose con­stituen­cies in­clude the B&Bs have called for a swift and im­proved re­sponse to Birm­ing­ham’s home­less cri­sis.

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yard­ley, said: “It seems per­verse to me for the coun­cil to still be do­ing this in such big num­bers.

“We need to use some of the mil­lions we are spend­ing on B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion to fund de­cent char­i­ties and other or­gan­i­sa­tions who can cre­ate de­cent al­ter­na­tives.

“We have been talk­ing about this prob­lem for years and we are still say­ing the same things while more peo­ple are af­fected. That shows a real lack of fore­sight.”

The use of B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion as a way to tackle home­less­ness has now be­come rou­tine rather than an ex­cep­tion, says Labour’s Preet Gill, whose Edg­bas­ton con­stituency in­cludes the Ha­gley Road ho­tels.

“If the coun­cil per­sists in reg­u­larly us­ing B&Bs like Smithy’s and Ethan B&B, and the Nor­folk Ho­tel, then I would want to see them pro­vide an in-house sup­port worker for these fam­i­lies who can help them with ap­pli­ca­tions for hous­ing, ac­cess­ing health ser­vices, sort­ing out school­ing, and so on,” she said. “Sim­ply aban­don­ing them is ab­so­lutely ap­palling and this can­not con­tinue.”

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil says it only uses B&Bs as a con­tin­gency mea­sure and will, go­ing for­ward, be of­fer­ing prop­er­ties in the pri­vate rented sec­tor to those they have a duty to house.

Two new sup­ported ac­com­mo­da­tion units, Barry Jack­son Tower and Mag­no­lia House, will also open early next year.

And it is part of the re­cently launched Hous­ing First pi­lot, for which the West Mid­lands has re­ceived £10 mil­lion to help with home­less­ness and ex­pand­ing so­cial hous­ing across the city.

>The Nor­folk Ho­tel (above), Ethan B&B (top right), and Smithy’s Ho­tel (bot­tom right) re­ceived hun­dreds of thou­sands in coun­cil cash to house peo­ple

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