What is being done about Worthing's homelessness problem?
As Christmas draws closer, the issue of homelessness is brought into sharper relief. And last week, a story about a homeless man whose dog was taken away from him captured Worthing's imagination and raised the question: what is being done to stamp out homelessness in our town?
Labour borough councillor Beccy Cooper has been vocal on the issue, using her social media platforms to tell the stories of people who are homeless in an attempt to reduce stigma.
And at a meeting earlier this month, Worthing Borough Council pledged to invest £9million in emergency housing.
Beccy said: “I’m really lucky as a councillor that I have a profile and a platform which I can use to raise awareness.
“If I see someone who is homeless, as a human being I just want to have a chat with them. It is a real privlege to meet these people, and the members of the public who want to help them.”
Graham Sawyer, who often sleeps outside Laura Ashley in the Montague Centre, had his dog Dusty taken away by dog wardens after concerns about its health. It is now being looked after by the council.
It sparked an online backlash, with people questioning why a dog can be taken in, but a man cannot.
Adur and Worthing Police said local homelessness services had been working with Graham to get him off the street. Read the full story here.
Beccy said a major catalyst for homelessness was a lack of affordable housing: “You hear the story that someone’s relationship broke down so they become homeless – but if you have enough money, you can afford to live somewhere else.
“But if there are no affordable houses anywhere, where do you live?”
This comes as Adur & Worthing Councils pledged a combined contribution of £9 million over the next three years towards acquiring emergency or temporary accommodation for those declared homeless.
The council said it would save the taxpayer money in the long-term by reducing the amount spent on expensive short-term temporary accommodation and give families stability.
Lead councillors have also signed up to the five-year Community Homelessness Strategy. It has been created by Adur and Worthing Homelessness Forum, a partnership of organisations including charities, the police and NHS.
It aims to improve access to advice and assistance to prevent homelessness, identify those at risk as early as possible and reduce the risk of vulnerable people sleeping rough.
Worthing borough councillor Heather Mercer, chairman of the Adur and Worthing Homelessness Forum, said: “Preventing homelessness is everyone’s business and remains a key priority in Adur and Worthing.
“The wider community strategy strategy will use the knowledge, expertise and resources of groups across Adur and Worthing to prevent homelessness in a more effective way.
“We, as councillors, agencies and charities, must come together to make sure we identify and intervene as early as we can. If we do, that will increase the chances of successfully preventing homelessness. We need to protect the most vulnerable people within our society.”
The strategy also highlights a series of steps to help those sleeping rough. This includes providing a dedicated service to vulnerable single people and establishing a protocol with hospitals to ensure that no-one is discharged to the streets.