Call for council to do more on homelessness

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An opposition councillor is hoping to win favour in the chamber for a radical new plan to tackle homelessness in the borough.

Coun Steve Jones, an independent representative for Bryn, wants vacant council buildings to be repurposed as daytime accommodation for those on the streets where they could get intensive help with addictions.

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Coun Jones says there are a number of local properties which have recently shut, such as Walkden House in Bryn, which could be suitable.

He applauded the work being done already by the local authority and charities but said there are still not enough places for those without a permanent address to go in the daytime.

He also suggested the scale of homelessness required a more drastic response.

Coun Jones said: “My heart goes out to these individuals who have nobody to understand how it has got so bad for them.

“It’s 100 per cent our responsibility as a council to help these people and not leave them behind. We can’t just ignore them. The number of night shelters has increased but they are only in there from 8pm until 8am and then they are back on the streets.

“Sheltered accommodation would be somewhere council officers can work with them on any issues they may have.

"Once they are deemed ready for permanent accommodation we can move them into a council property and help them with different types of benefits available and even work-based courses to further their chances of getting a job and becoming totally independent.

"The borough charities have done an incredible job but this issue is bigger than them: it needs to come into the council with the charities supporting us.

“In countries like Canada they say that 60 per cent of the problem are solved by having a roof over your head. Here we try to solve the problems first and then get them accommodation.

"I agree you can’t always put people straight into a house, especially if they have drug problems, but night shelters alone aren’t enough either.”

But Wigan Council issued a statement outlining existing work with rough sleepers.

Coun Terry Halliwell, cabinet member for housing and welfare, said: “We are committed to acting early to prevent homelessness and in the past year have prevented more than 5,000 cases of potential homelessness.

"Two rehabilitation and support hubs in Wigan and Leigh are being created, bringing together all relevant services to help rough sleepers. There will be emergency access beds available for the homeless and services will be available seven days a week.

“We have received a £340,000 investment from the government’s rough sleeping grant initiative to put in place new frontline measures. We have made significant investments to help support homeless services ourselves through The Deal for Communities Investment Fund and will continue to work with providers to deliver a cohesive approach so services can work together to better understand people’s requirements.

“We have also launched a Homeless Champions scheme which will see trained volunteers checking people on the streets daily for a better understanding of their circumstances and to provide more support.”