‘Council must focus on helping local homeless’
HOMELESS people sleeping on the streets of Bath and the surrounding areas should be sent back “where they came from” if they are not local to the area, according to a councillor.
Barry Macrae, a Conservative councillor representing Midsomer Norton North on Bath and North East Somerset Council, hit out at the idea of helping rough sleepers who have “nothing to do” with the local area.
Mr Macrae was responding to the news that the council has secured £680,000 of Government money to help dozens of people sleeping on the district’s streets, parks and car parks each night.
He said he feared that when the Government funding ran out, local people and the council would be forced to foot the bill.
The possibility of paying for the third of the estimated 33 rough sleepers in the area who are not “locals” was of particular concern to Mr Macrae.
Praising plans to reconnect rough sleepers from outside Bath and North East Somerset with their communities, he said efforts should focus on helping the local homeless.
“Brilliant, send them back to where they came from,” he said. “Look after the people that are here that have got issues that need looking after.
“But don’t come to me in two years’ time and say the Government’s stopped the money, can we have some more because we want to help ten people who have got nothing to do with us.”
Mr Macrae made his comments at a meeting of the council’s planning, housing and economic development policy development and scrutiny panel.
Referring to rough sleepers arriving from other parts of the country, he said: “Go stop those ten from even getting here.”
The funding made available under the Government’s Rough Sleeper Strategy will allow the council to provide a range of extra services for the district’s rough sleepers at least until the money runs out in 18 months’ time.
Those services include 20 extra beds at Bath’s homeless shelter Julian House over winter, additional mental health support on the streets, help at the point of hospital discharge, rent in advance to take advantage of tenancy opportunities, and support to keep tenancies.
The money won by the council includes £320,000 for the six months to the end of March 2019 and another £360,000 for the following 12 months.
The council has already had an indication from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government that the funding could be extended beyond 18 months.
A council officer responded to Mr Macrae’s concerns, saying the council took a humanitarian approach to rough sleepers from outside the council area.
“We are trying to get upstream to prevent people becoming rough sleepers. But like it or not, some people are already here,” the panel heard from council officers.
An estimated 33 people slept rough each night in Bath and North East Somerset in 2017, a rise of 50 per cent on the year before when the number was 22.