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‘We’ve learned from the pandemic’: Plans to buy homes for homeless people given green light

PUBLISHED: 07:39 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 07:39 23 September 2020

Homelessness disappeared almost overnight during the coronavirus pandemic, but councils are now looking at longer-term ways to keep people off the streets. Photo: Getty Images

Homelessness disappeared almost overnight during the coronavirus pandemic, but councils are now looking at longer-term ways to keep people off the streets. Photo: Getty Images

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A coastal council says it has “learned from the coronavirus pandemic” as a new scheme to buy up transitional houses for homeless people is given the green light.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council provided temporary accommodation for 153 rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping, during the lockdown period. Photo: Getty ImagesGreat Yarmouth Borough Council provided temporary accommodation for 153 rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping, during the lockdown period. Photo: Getty Images

Subject to grant funding from Homes England, Great Yarmouth councillors agreed at a policy and resources meeting on September 22 to provide housing for up to two years for rough sleepers and those living in hostels while they find a permanent home.

According to council officer Nicola Turner, the plan involves “increasing the overall supply of supported housing”, and will see officers team up with a local charity who will use one of the flats as an office and “neutral space” for tenants.

Ms Turner said: “We can’t mention the charity’s name at present, but they will help support the residents into both paid and unpaid employment.

“The idea is to continue the work we undertook during the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Carl Smith, deputy leader of Great Yarmouth Borogh Council. Picture: Ella WilkinsonCouncillor Carl Smith, deputy leader of Great Yarmouth Borogh Council. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“It’s about creating a pathway for people to access supported housing.”

MORE: How coronavirus cleared a seaside town of rough sleepers overnight

In a report prepared by Ms Turner, it says the council made offers of temporary accommodation to 153 people who were rough sleepers or at risk of becoming so between March 23 and June 30 as part of the “Everyone In” initaitive.

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But the report shows that these specific plans were in the pipeline even before the pandemic.

Cllr Bernard Williamson asked whether the scheme Cllr Bernard Williamson asked whether the scheme "met all of the borough's need" - or if that need was too great for the scheme to accomodate. Picture: JAMES BASS

It says: “Prior to lockdown, the council was approached by a registered provider which owns a number of flats in the area and wanted to dispose of them.

“The properties need repairs and updating, and the cost was more than originally expected.

“Based on this, it is not viable for the council to purchase the properties and improve them unless grant funding is available.”

Labour councillor Bernard Williamson hailed the scheme as something that had been “needed for years”.

But when probed about whether the scheme would “meet all of the housing need” the borough currently has, Ms Turner told Mr Williamson it may not “fill the gap” completely.

She said: “This scheme will go a very long way in meeting the current need we have for supported housing, but might not meet all of the need.”

Councillors unanimously approved the plans to buy up the houses and reserve one for the charity’s office use if the grant application is successful.

More: Almost £1m for Norfolk to keep roofs over heads of homeless people


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