Sidmouth homelessness charity: ‘Inadequate resourcing puts laudable Act at risk’

Gateway volunteers and supporters at its first birthday celebrations

Gateway volunteers and supporters at its first birthday celebrations - Credit: Archant

New legislation aimed at cutting homelessness will result in an ‘inevitable’ rise in demand on already stretched resources.

An East Devon District Council (EDDC) report says the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will result in the biggest shake-up in 40 years.

It says the Act’s purpose is to give people the help they need to avoid becoming homeless and to support those already experiencing homelessness.

The cabinet report says: “There is nothing in the Act to address the two main underlying contributing factors towards homelessness, namely lack of supply of affordable housing and affordability.”

A spokesman for Sidmouth homelessness charity Gateway said: “Austerity cuts have seen supported housing in Devon cut by 50 per cent in 2014 and there is a planned further cut of 60 per cent in 2018.

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“Welfare reforms and the introduction of Universal Credit have led to a widening gap between private sector rents and local housing allowances, making the private rented sector unaffordable to the majority of homeless people. The supply of social housing in East Devon is inadequate to meet current levels of housing need.

“Gateway volunteers are finding that a very high proportion of people who are either homeless or who are at risk of being made homeless in East Devon have complex needs.

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“The big risk is that the laudable objectives of the Act are inadequately resourced and are hampered by austerity cuts, welfare reform and a lack of social housing.”

A recent report from the National Audit Office found there were 4,000 rough sleepers across the country last year – up 134 per cent since 2010.

The Gateway spokesman added: “This is a very real problem which affects all kinds of families.

“It is frighteningly easy to end up without a roof over your head.

“Although you might not see many homeless people in Sidmouth, that is partly because in addition to helping the street homeless, we are working to help vulnerable families before they fall through the net.”

Gateway, which formed in 2015 following the death of rough sleeper Tommy Duffy on the Ham, works with The Mustard Seed Café and the Sid Valley Food Bank to support people in crisis.

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