Revealed: Sad truth of Preston's homeless families

More than 150 Preston families required council support for homelessness in the run up to last Christmas.

By Mike Hill
Thursday, 13th June 2019, 4:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th June 2019, 5:50 pm
More than 150 Preston families required council support for homelessness in the run up to last Christmas
More than 150 Preston families required council support for homelessness in the run up to last Christmas

Housing charity Shelter has warned councils are struggling to cope with the volume of people needing support amid a national "housing emergency".

Following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2017, councils in England must provide support to eligible homeless households, as well as those at risk of becoming homeless in the next 56 days.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows there were 171 households due support after applying for help from Preston City Council between October and December, including 42 families with children.

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Of these, 72, or 42 per cent, were at risk of homelessness, meaning the council had to work with them to prevent them losing their home.

The remaining 99 were already homeless, in which case the council has to help them secure accommodation for a period of at least six months.

Across England, more than 61,000 households were owed a duty under the act over the three months to December – more than 20,000 of them families with children.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the figures painted a bleak picture of the housing landscape in England.

"It’s little wonder that local councils are finding it difficult to cope with the sheer volume of people turning to them for help," she said.

"Beyond those sleeping rough on our streets, tens of thousands of homeless families are living in temporary accommodation, including emergency B&Bs and hostels.

"Our advisers see first-hand the unbearable anguish of parents who can’t tell their children when they’ll have a place to call home."

One in five homeless or at risk households in Preston lost their last secure home because their assured shorthold tenancy – the most common type of private rental contract – ended.

There were also 11 households made homeless because their social tenancy came to an end – six per cent of the total – while 10 came from supported housing, which could include refuges or housing for elderly or disabled people.

Of the social tenants, eight lost their homes because they were behind on their rent.

What does homelessness look like in Preston?

Of the households owed support by Preston City Council:

* 109 contained a person with at least one high need – 12 people had an illness or physical disability, 26 had a mental health condition, five a learning disability, and two were elderly

* 28 were headed by a single mother, and five by a single father.

* Four were at risk of homelessness because of so-called no-fault evictions, after their landlord issued them with a soon-to-be banned Section 21 notice.

* 14 lost their last home because of domestic abuse.

* 11 were sleeping rough at the time they applied for help from the council

* 47, or 27 per cent, were headed by a person aged 25-34 – the most common age group

Ms Neate said a chronic lack of social homes and the housing benefit freeze were contributing to the crisis.

“The majority of families who are now homeless are working, but this is just not enough to overcome the hefty cost of private renting or the impact of excessive welfare cuts," she said.

"The bottom line is that you cannot solve homelessness without homes that people can actually afford to live in, which is why we want the government to commit to build 3.1m more social homes over the next 20 years."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Recent figures show encouraging signs that the Homelessness Reduction Act is making a real difference in providing vulnerable people with the support they need, and at an earlier stage.

“But we know there is more to do, which is why we’re investing £1.2bn to tackle homelessness, and empowering councils to build more council homes to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home to call their own.”