Battle being stepped up to tackle homelessness misery

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THE fight to prevent homelessness in one of Yorkshire’s property hotspots is being intensified amid growing concerns the Government’s welfare reforms will compound a soaring number of cases.

York Housing Association has been appointed by York Council to help tackle the city’s growing homelessness problem.

The Homelessness Prevention Service will provide practical help to householders who face losing their home amid the grave economic downturn.

York Council dealt with 183 cases of homelessness last year - an increase of 53 on the previous 12 months - and concerns have been expressed that the problems will escalate.

York Housing Association’s operations director, Kate Spencer, said: “There is a serious problem in the city and it is feared that the Government’s proposed welfare reforms could make the situation even worse.

“Our team will be providing people with free support on a range of issues including helping to resolve financial problems, dealing with mortgage and rent arrears, maximising benefits and even help with finding employment.”

The threat of homelessness in York has been amplified with the rising cost of property, despite the economic downturn.

Latest figures from the National Housing Federation have revealed the average cost of a property in York is £202,823, while the average wage is only £19,812.

York Council’s cabinet member for housing, Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, said: “With an increase in homelessness over recent months, this is a critical time for this service to be commissioned.

“It’s essential that preventative services exist even in these financial testing times. A small amount of support before someone loses their home is significantly more effective both to the people at risk of losing their home and to the range of services they would have to access if homelessness did occur.”

But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman maintained it did not expect any increase in homelessness due to the housing benefit reforms, which are about “restoring fairness” to a system which has “spiralled out of control”.

York Housing Association can be contacted on 01904 636061 for advice.