Councils urged to take action to stem rise in homelessness.

Councils need to take preventive action to halt the rise in
homelessness, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has

Andy Gale, specialist adviser at the homelessness and housing
support directorate, told delegates to “stop hiding behind a lack
of affordable housing”.

Official figures released last week reveal that the number of
homeless households accepted for re-housing in the first three
months of 2004 fell by 1 per cent compared with the same period
last year.

Although the number of households in bed and breakfast
accommodation has fallen 41 per cent since March 2003 – largely
thanks to the introduction in April of new rules around placing
families in B&Bs – the number of people in hostel accommodation
has risen by 8 per cent in the same period.

Gale said councils should seek to tackle the three key areas that
cause between 70 and 80 per cent of homelessness: evictions for
late rent payment, domestic violence, and relatives or friends no
longer willing to accommodate. He said councils should provide rent
deposit schemes, offer mediation services within seven days, and
work in partnership to minimise the impact of domestic

Delegates heard of a NHS hospital (which cannot be named) where all
staff are trained to spot and deal with domestic violence.
Extending the scheme to the maternity unit has helped a significant
number of women to find new homes and break the cycle of

However, delegates highlighted one major government inconsistency.
Stockton-on-Tees councillor Suzanne Fletcher said that the
government fostered the popular view that people in social housing
caused antisocial behaviour. “That perpetuates homelessness because
they are perceived as too high risk for other housing
associations,” Fletcher said.

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