‘Coun­cil must fo­cus on help­ing lo­cal home­less’

Western Daily Press - - News - AMANDA CAMERON news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

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.

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