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HOMELESS PRESENTATIONS TO SALFORD COUNCIL ROCKET
 

Star date: 11th March 2013

BEFORE THE BEDROOM TAX ARRIVES HOMELESS PRESENTATIONS ROCKET

"I don't know what I'd have to do to become a priority…die?" Craig, homeless.

The numbers of those who present themselves as homeless to Salford City Council shot up in just twelve months. And this is before the bedroom tax and social housing rent increases even begin.

With over 16,000 people on Salford Council's housing waiting list, Salford Star reporter Chloe Glover went to one of the city's drop-in shelters, where residents criticised the Council's failure to provide adequate housing. Meanwhile, City Mayor Ian Stewart doesn't appear to know what's going on…

Full details here…


Homeless presentations to Salford City Council rocketed by almost 170 in 2012 but those the Council granted as being in need of priority housing fell, statistics obtained by the Salford Star reveal.

The number of people who declared themselves as homeless in Salford shot up from 599 in 2011 to 766 the following year as the effects of the recession and lack of employment continued to be felt.

However the amount Salford Council accepted as statutory homeless - not intentionally homeless and in priority need of housing, which includes a right to immediate temporary accommodation - decreased from 277 people in 2011 to 267 despite the increase in homeless presentations. This is just over a third of the overall number of people who approached the Council as homeless last year and an increase of only eight people since 2009.

Last year also saw the number of people the Council classed as potentially eligible for some form of help in finding a home but not in `priority' need quadruple from 37 in 2011 to 156 people. This means that while the Council admits they are homeless they do not have a legal obligation to house them.

The statistics highlight a broad failure to provide enough accommodation for the rising number of people coming to the Council for help. They also show how the narrow categories local councils adhere to as part of the national housing policy can remove them from the responsibility of ensuring there is enough long-term, instant access housing for residents in need of it.

Statistics released by Shelter last month also reveal that Salford City Council is failing to provide anywhere near enough council housing that is needed. According to Shelter statistics, 16,476 people were on Salford's council house waiting list in 2011, a number that has almost doubled since 2007. Since then the waiting list figures have surely gone up even higher, although the figures aren't easily available.

For people presenting as homeless but not classed as a priority, finding secure long-term accommodation can be a very drawn out process that can leave them in a housing limbo for months. It can make them vulnerable to sleeping rough, sofa surfing, living in hostels and relying on the goodwill of charities.

Homeless residents in Salford have criticised the Council for endangering lives by not doing enough to ensure all who are coming to it as homeless are re-housed quickly. Speaking from a drop-in centre in the city they said that priority for housing should be an entitlement of all not just a few.

"The term `priority' is ridiculous" said Craig "If you don't have a secure home should you not be a priority? A right to housing is a basic need, not a luxury we should have to queue up for.

"I think it's a term that's used to fob people off" he added "I see people on the streets everyday who obviously aren't seen as a priority by councils. I've got chronic pancreatitis but I'm still not a priority either. It can make you feel like you're being pushed to one side. I don't know what I'd have to do to become a priority…die?"

"The Council needs to prioritise building more social housing" he argued "I've been on the council housing list for six months and bid every week. When the benefit changes come in, it could mean more people join the list if they can't manage on their new benefits.

"Luckily I've managed to get a space in a night shelter for the past five weeks but I've had to sleep rough which has a big impact on you" he explained "I'm a recovering alcoholic so it has also been tough staying in shelters sometimes because you can be around people who are still hooked, it could make it harder for some people to give up.

Jane, another centre user, agreed that the Government and Salford City Council need to do much more, as tough times continue for people living in the area.

She said: "The UN says that access to housing is a human right. Why are they not taking notice of this in Salford and the rest of the UK? They should be doing more so that everyone has access to secure accommodation. I've seen lots of empty houses in Salford which could be used to house people. I think it's a disgrace that people have to live in shelters or god knows where when these buildings exist."

Even Scott, who was lucky in finding council housing quickly in comparison to other people at the drop-in, still had to live in shelters for several weeks.

He said: "I wasn't a priority need so was placed on the housing list and allowed to bid on properties. It took me a month to get somewhere."

Salford Mayor Ian Stewart was apparently unaware of his Council's own official statistics that highlight the gap between those presenting themselves as homeless and those accepted as priorities. He remained adamant, however, that the Council was doing what it could to re-house people.

"They're not the statistics that I have" said Stewart "My information is that the numbers coming through the door has not increased dramatically in Salford but the proportion that we accept as statutory homeless has increased."

Partway through his response he changed his mind to suggest an increase in both presentations and statutory homeless, the latter still at odds with the Council's figures provided to the Salford Star.

"Why is it that there's an increase in presentations and the number of statutory designated homeless?" he asked "Well it's because the number of other options, like the private sector, are reducing as benefits reduce. In all honesty that is going to get worse before it gets better.

"I believe" he added "that our bond scheme which we are offering to those who have found somewhere to live but can't afford a deposit is a good step that could help solve the issues."

How far the scheme, which is dependent on individual landlords' decisions to apply to become part of it, will work to realistically help ease the problem of the increasing amounts of people in the housing limbo, remains to be fully seen.

Total number of new council houses built in the years 2012 and 2011 through Salix and the City West Housing Trust organisations:
2011: 101...
2012: 0

See also previous Salford Star article Homeless In Salford - click here


In Part 2 – How Salford Council is replacing social housing with unaffordable private housing…

Bernard Brough wrote
at 17:22:18 on 12 March 2013
Brian, just because the Conservatives, including Conservative Light ie Labour, have given up on public services doesn't mean we should all do so. The problem is that you can't get things cheaper, or better through a middle man. Bring all public services back into total public ownership. Only then will the problems that we face be solved.
 
Michael Felse wrote
at 06:31:08 on 12 March 2013
Am pretty sure the Arms Length Companies only manage the council housing stock. Salix managing some 10,500 council-owned properties in Central Salford. I would support gifting these houses to the people living in them for £500 each. Taking away repair costs and cut out estate management cost while raising £5million to go into services to Salford vulnerable citizens.
 
Brian F Kirkham wrote
at 20:34:31 on 11 March 2013
Bernard, much as though I agree with your statement - Most Councils (including Salford) have given up on the concept of Public Ownership of their streets. Their housing stock has been hived off and transferred to "Arms-Length" companies or to Housing Associations up and down the land. Instead they provide the "Capital" for new schemes via the portion for housing in the council tax. Any return in the investment goes back to council, as does any council tax to be paid by the occupier. The sad thing in this arrangement however, is the Housing Associations cherry pick their tenants - when council housing is in low supply (and not likely to increase, because of practically permanent tenancies)- those in genuine need are passed between HAs in the Vicinity.
 
Bernard Brough wrote
at 14:47:18 on 11 March 2013
It's time the brains trust down at the mad house had a rethink. Bond schemes & housing associatiosn are clearly not working. It's very simple really. BUILD SOME COUNCIL HOUSES!
 
wrote
at 09:26:53 on 11 March 2013
Another disgrace falls on Salford, with 16,000 people on the housing waiting list. With an average family of 2.5 people it means we have 40,000 lives wanting to enjoy Salford. Ask Development in Greengate need to be convinced to drop the office project and make their building plan a housing project of affordable apartments to free up family homes across Salford.
 
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