Homelessness in Lancaster on the rise

SCAN investigates the rising homelessness problem in Lancaster, and what councils are doing to help.

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A Freedom of Information Request made to the Lancaster City Council reveals that the number of households seeking assistance for homelessness in the district has increased substantially in the last year.

The Council measures three different cases: Statutory Homeless Presentations (households in which the Council could not prevent homelessness), Statutory Homeless Acceptances (households the Council had a duty to rehouse) and Homelessness Preventions (households the Council kept in existing accommodation or moved to alternative accommodation).

From the January-December 2015 to January-December 2017 period, though the number of Statutory Homeless Presentation cases dropped from 132 to 109, the number of Homeless Acceptance cases increased from 42 to 68, and the number of Prevention cases from 538, to 655.

Councillor Andrew Warriner, Cabinet member with responsibility for health and housing, said: “The City Council does not want to see anyone homeless and has a robust early advice and prevention strategy in place to nip potential cases of homelessness in the bud well before reaching crisis point. We believe that prevention is the best approach and our success in this area is shown by these figures.”

“Of course, there will always be some people who do not contact the council prior to being made homeless and in these circumstances each case is individually assessed. In the case of those applications where the council has a statutory duty, then the council is able to provide a range of options including temporary accommodation.”

It was highlighted by the manager of the Lancaster District Homeless Action Service (LDHAS) that the City Council distinguishes between ‘statutory’ and ‘non-statutory’ homelessness cases, with the council only being obliged to offer intensive help those who fall under the ‘statutory’ bracket.

As such, most individuals that the service receives are those who aren’t entitled to the sane level of assistance as a ‘statutory’ homeless case. Individuals who are not in their home-county, or do not fulfil certain age, and familial criteria are not eligible, and therefore struggle to access services. The LDHAS manager noted this difficulty, adding “we often fight a lot of people’s cases to get them mental health support”.

“What we see here, are people who are homeless, finding life difficult […] we see people from broken families and from care. They’ve had a poor start in life”. Among the majority of non-statutory individuals the shelter has encountered, many suffered with mental health or drug abuse problems, requiring extensive support. He emphasised the importance of supporting services that assist those with drug addictions, mental health problems, and those suffering from abuse.

Councillor Warriner adds: “In circumstances where the council does not have a statutory duty then we are able to provide help and support in finding new accommodation. There are also occasional circumstances where a client refuses temporary accommodation and the help and advice which they are offered”.

The LDHAS manager states that if there’s blame to place, it lies beyond local authorities, saying “they’re doing as much as they can, with the resources they have […] if you were to attribute it to anything, it would be central government not supporting [services]”.