Major rise feared in number of homeless people along coast

FEARS are growing over a major rise in homelessness along the North Yorkshire coast with the recession and Government housing cuts forcing more people on to the streets.

A new report, to go before Scarborough Borough council's Cabinet next week, warns a lack of affordable housing in the area and impending cuts to housing benefit are going to have "a major impact on levels of homelessness within the borough and have significant implications for the council".

New figures released yesterday show a general rise in homelessness across Yorkshire, with York particularly highlighted as a blackspot with an increase in homelessness by 57 per cent.

But the growing scale of the problem is feared to have a particular impact on Scarborough, Whitby and Filey, as homeless people often head to seaside resorts where there is cut-price bed and breakfast accommodation outside holiday periods.

The feared future homelessness crisis has prompted the report to recommend a new action group is set up to undertake a review of the council's strategy.

Coun Jonathan Dixon, executive member for housing, public health, property maintenance and sustainability, said: "I certainly am anxious about any further pressures on this.

"When there are pressures and people become homeless because of the downturn combined with the changes from government policy, it becomes an immediate problem that needs to be solved.

"More and more people are starting to struggle, falling into debt, getting evicted and having nowhere to go.

"Because Scarborough is a seaside town it can attract people and also because it has cheaper accommodation.

"I am very worried about how we are going to address this."

While the report acknowledges the work that has been done to address homelessness along the coast, it warns that demand for social rented housing in the area is far outstripping supply with less than 12 per cent of housing stock social rented – well below the national average of 20 per cent – and waiting lists for affordable housing standing at 3,000.

It also warns that planned benefit cuts could see a sharp increase in young people being forced to leave their family home and live on the streets.

Judith Pullen, manager of Scarborough Homeless Support, which offers a "Winter Watch" service providing emergency accommodation to people, said: "There has been a rise everywhere since the economic crisis began around 18 months ago.

"It is having a knock-on effect.

"One of the biggest problems when people lose their jobs is it causes anxiety and stress between couples and families that often results in the males having to leave the home.

"It has always been a known fact that people will go to seaside resorts if they are homeless, either because they visited the place when they were younger and have fond memories or because of the amount of bed and breakfast accommodation.

"We do our best to try to resolve everybody's housing problems but affordable housing is at a premium."

The report will go before Scarborough Council's Cabinet on December 15.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter said: "Already in Britain every two minutes someone faces the nightmare of losing their home, so it's really worrying to see homelessness is on the rise in Yorkshire.

"We know from the cases we see every day that just one single thing, like a bout of illness, rent increase or drop in income, is all that's needed to push people into spiral of debt and arrears that can lead to the loss of their home.

"At a time of year when many people are taking on extra debt, Shelter is urging anyone struggling with their housing costs to urgently seek advice. Shelter's free housing helpline is there to help when things start to spiral out of control."