Councils in parts of the North East are struggling to find housing for homeless people, new data suggests.
Information from the Department for Communities and Local Government gives a snapshot of the numbers of homeless people between January and March this year. Sunderland was recorded as having the second highest gap in England between those the city council could find accommodation for and those it could not.
The data shows that for every homeless family it housed, the council could not find anywhere for 15 households. It housed five families from January to March but was unable to find accommodation for 76 families.
Meanwhile, South Tyneside Council had the third highest gap. For every family it housed, it could not find anywhere for more than eight households. It found accommodation for five families in the first three months of this year, but it could not help as many as 43 families in that timeframe.
Last night, leading homeless charity Crisis said it was essential that local authorities do all that they can to help. Katharine Sacks-Jones, head of policy and campaigns at Crisis said: “Homelessness is rising across the country due to the economic downturn and cuts to housing benefit – a disaster for those affected but bad for us all. Central government needs to reverse these damaging cuts and local authorities have a responsibility to do all they can to give meaningful help to every person and family facing homelessness.”
But council chiefs say figures represent the number of people homeless on a given day at the end of March and insist that does “not give an accurate picture” of homelessness over the quarter as a whole. Graeme Miller, portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services at Sunderland City Council said: “The city council has been very successful in addressing homelessness at a local level in Sunderland.
“This includes a dedicated officer working with any family that has to be placed in temporary accommodation. We also support their specific needs and work with housing partners to find the family a more permanent home within six weeks.
“During the period in question, 31 households were either re-housed or ceased to be homeless. At the end of the quarter only five households were temporarily housed in bed and breakfast accommodation.
“Seventy six households classed as homeless were living with family, friends or had made alternative arrangements which can often be better than placing people in temporary accommodation as it avoids taking people away from their support networks, schools and jobs, as well as being less costly for taxpayers.”
The data does not show if some people had rejected offers of help.
South Tyneside Council is developing a five-year Homelessness Strategy. A spokesperson said: “The strategy aims to look at how best to prevent homelessness through partnership working in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The council is confident those affected by homelessness can be helped to make the necessary steps to a settled future.
“Homelessness in South Tyneside is on the increase which is in line with the national picture. This is largely down to applicants being asked to leave their home mainly in the private rented sector, followed by parents no longer being able to accommodate them.
“This combined with personal debt, leads to applicants being at risk of, or losing their home.
“When a person or family is accepted by the council as a homeless household we can offer a range of suitable accommodation to meet the needs of the household. No families were placed in bed and breakfast accommodation during 2012/13.”