Homelessness Reaching Middle Class Families in South Cambridgeshire

17:40 Tuesday 31st July 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

NICK FAIRBAIRN: There’s been a rise in the number of households needing emergency accommodation in the East of England. Date company SSentif has found that homelessness has risen by around 25% over the last three years, with the highest rise happening in this region.Cllr Mark Howell is the Cabinet Member for Housing at South Cambridgeshire District Council, and joins me in the studio now. Mark, have you seen a rise in homelessness in South Cambridgeshire? Has this been an upward trend?
MARK HOWELL: Oh yes. This is something we were fearful for for the last couple of years. We’ve made provisions for it in our budgets, and different things such as that. We’ve put an extra homelessness officer in here. And yes, unfortunately our predictions have borne out, and we are seeing an increase in homeless people.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Who’s facing homelessness in the area. Is there a particular kind of bracket?
MARK HOWELL: Well I wish I could say it was, but it is actually hitting people right across the whole spectrum of society. We’re having everybody you could possibly imagine, from what we would class as the traditional homeless, which is the young teenage or teenager, should we say rather, who has been kicked out by their parents for unruly behaviour, right through to we have people turning up who were an executive in a company. They’ve lost their job. They’ve got a BMW 5 Series outside with a wife and three children, and haven’t got a house because it’s been repossessed. So we’ve got the complete gamut as you can possibly imagine.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Yes. So recession really biting. What do you do to prevent this? What can you do? How do you help?
MARK HOWELL: Well basically what we at the homeless team now do, they really spend more time on prevention, so making sure people have advice. We work very very closely with the C.A.B. We fund them, and we work very closely with them. And also we work with the King Street Housing. And one of the initiatives that we’ve got, if we have somebody who’s potentially homeless, and they’ve found accommodation, or we have found accommodation for them, one of the big things is the deposit, the rent. And they haven’t got the four, five even a thousand pounds rent that some people are demanding. So through the King Street Housing we will guarantee it. And this is South Cambridgeshire District Council. We will guarantee the rent for the. So at least then they can go into that, and then through the housing benefits and different things such as that, or even their own job, they can actually pay the rent from there on. But we are working very closely. And prevention is our biggest thing, the biggest thing that we do.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: It’s crucial isn’t it? It’s all about giving people a leg up. Because as you say, it’s people all across the board. It’s not just when you stereotype and say well it’s this certain type of person that will find themselves homeless. That’s not the case any more. Because the recession is biting everywhere. So giving people a leg up stops that vicious cycle to a certain extent.
MARK HOWELL: You’re spot on correct. And the other thing, one of the big things of homelessness as will is domestic violence. Predominantly domestic violence against women. We’ve seen a big increase in that recently. And there is no excuses, but what we are being told is that it is the financial hardship that people are under. But I still won’t give that as an excuse. It’s just that’s what we are being told. So we’re having a lot of women coming forward with children who want to escape a very abusive relationship they’re in. And that’s one of the other things that we’re finding at the moment.