12:18 Wednesday 13 November 2013

Council's new approach prevents over 50 families becoming homeless

Written byJORDAN DAY

A homeless person. A homeless person.

A drive to tackle homelessness in the Ely area has prevented dozens of families from losing the roofs over their heads in just three months.

East Cambridgeshire District Council ramped up its efforts to tackle homelessness earlier this year as it was spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on putting people up in B&B accommodation.

By taking what the council describes as a new “proactive, preventive approach”, the authority is now not placing anyone in B&Bs and has prevented 51 households in the district from becoming homeless.

The changes over the last three months have also saved the authority £150,000 - all of which council leader James Palmer says has been put back into the budget to be used elsewhere.

Cllr Palmer said: “It has been fantastic to see the turn around in the service which we are able to provide to our residents threatened with homelessness.

“By being proactive and identifying the needs of our residents, we have been able to dramatically improve the way we work with them and the landlords in the district.

“By changing our approach, we have dealt with the short term problems which saw thousands of pounds being spent on temporary accommodation and now can focus on the more long term strategic issues facing East Cambridgeshire.

“This would not have been possible without the fantastic effort from the team who are led by Jo Brooks and Karen Freya who joined the council earlier this year.”

Some of the changes have included developing better working relationships with local letting agencies and opening a new hostel in Granby Street, Littleport, which is able to take on up to six families at a time.

There are also plans to open a hostel in Soham.

Cllr Palmer said: “The authority is now working to build firm partnerships and importantly trust with the organisations who can help us create a broader, more affordable housing market across the district.

“We are also in the final stages of developing a hostel in Soham and are leading the way nationally with Community Land Trusts, which help provide affordable housing for local people.

“All this work is helping the authority to develop a service which is fit for purpose.

“There will no doubt be challenges in the future but we believe with have developed a number of ways to tackle issues which may arise in the years to come.”

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