A SIGNIFICANT sum of money has been approved to help West Dorset District Council tackle homelessness.

Councillors agreed to free up £50,000 from the West Dorset Housing Reserve to fund homelessness services over the coming year.

It comes as homelessness is on the rise nationally and locally.

A report put before the committee says there are 'sufficient funds' within the housing reserve to free up £50,000 for the proposal.

Councillor Tim Yarker, West Dorset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “Through careful management by the council over a number of years, reserves totalling around £230,000 have accumulated at West Dorset from underspends in Homelessness Prevention Grant funding. The council is now able to draw on this reserve to maintain its homelessness prevention programme during a period of financial constraint. It has been agreed that £50,000 from the reserve can be used in 2018/19.

“The £14,000 referred to in the committee report is simply the projected underspend from 2017/18, which will, at year end, be transferred into the reserve."

The council's annual rough sleeper count in November revealed that there were two rough sleepers in West Dorset on that night, which is unusual for a geographically large area.

The count also revealed that there was a total of 18 rough sleepers in Weymouth and Portland on the same night.

The money from the housing reserve will go towards reducing rough sleeping, ensuring families with children are not in B&Bs unless on an emergency basis, and lowering the number of people that use temporary accommodation.

The council has agreed to grant the funding to various initiatives to ensure that fewer people needs to come to it for assistance.

A total of £27,500 will be allocated to the street homeless outreach project. The council has a contract with Julian House to help provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.

The council will also provide £10,000 to discretionary homelessness prevention which enables housing staff to use small amounts of money to prevent homeless, for example arranging package to delay and prevent evictions.

The council will give £2,500 towards domestic abuse target hardening, which helps create additional security measures in properties where an occupier is at threat of domestic violence, and where it is recommended some additional work is necessary.

The Homelessness Reduction Act will come into effect in April this year and will significantly impact the way council’s deal with homelessness. The council has set aside £8,000 to help them meet the new obligations placed on them.

A small amount of funding has also been set aside for the various ad hoc prevention projects, and the council will allocate £2,000 to address the projects.

Cllr Yarker, briefholder for Housing, said he felt the initiatives are ‘particularly deserving’ of the funding.

Councillor Susie Hosford questioned whether the council is doing enough for domestic abuse target hardening, after she said domestic abuse is the third reason for homelessness in the country.

Clive Milone, Head of Housing at West Dorset District Council, said: “What we are doing here is homelessness prevention, yes there are other ways we could invest in preventing domestic abuse but from homelessness prevention angle we feel this is best.”


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