The Head of Housing Options presented the Homelessness Support item. A presentation was published with the papers, and a number of Members had also attended a Member Briefing. The presentation summarised that;
· A significant challenge was that homelessness and temporary accommodation levels pre-Covid were already high, and requests for assistance had increased. It was expected that this would continue to rise as the economic and mental health impacts of Covid-19 become apparent.
· Homelessness is a multi-faceted issue requiring a multi-agency response, and Officers felt that Bristol had provided a good response to the challenge. This included housing 1,000 people over the last six months, wrap around drug and alcohol services, and food provision from ‘Cheers Drive’.
· The recent focus was around moving people on from temporary accommodation, with plans for two ambitious multi-agency initiatives to prevent homelessness; the One City Move On project to deal with the bottle neck in supported housing and providing more accommodation for those ready to move on; and Change for Good, a partnership initiative to improve how agencies work together to support people with complex needs.
· Bristol City Council successfully bid for £1.9million from the Next Steps fund, and await the results of further bids. However, it was understood that government funding levels were insufficient. It was hoped that for the next financial year that funding levels would be maintained, with additional funds available for those impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.
Members were invited to ask questions. Discussion included the following points:
· It was confirmed that over 900 households were housed in temporary accommodation; this included those placed in hotels, and those with No Recourse to Public Funds.
· Preparations for winter, including a severe weather protocol, were being made. Government guidance around opening shelters in a Covid secure way was planned to be reviewed and some small pots of funding have been made available specifically for winter pressures.
· It was clarified Pathways is the homelessness supported accommodation process, in which people work their way through levels of support as required.
· Officers concerns were focused around the as yet unknown impact of the pandemic, and around the financial strain on other parts of the system which may have a knock on effect. At this point it was not known what funds would be received for the next financial year, but it was thought that a rollover budget was most likely.
· A stipulation of the first round of capital spending was for completion by 31st March, which ruled out new build projects. In future rounds it was hoped to be more creative.
· It was known prior to the Imperial Apartments deal that there was a risk attached associated with the owners, and work took place to ensure risks were mitigated, including onsite workers and site facilities. It is not being used as temporary accommodation but private rented assured shorthold tenancies.
· It was confirmed that ‘extreme rent arrears’ for evictions generally involve non-payment over a number of years. The priority is to work with tenants.
· The prioritisation of moving people from supported to private rented accommodation is around easing a bottleneck by finding more Move On accommodation rather than increase the competition for existing social housing.
· Officers confirmed that during the pandemic response a number of people were housed in emergency accommodation that may not have otherwise been eligible. The aim was for no one to return to the streets. Bristol City Council engaged with the refugee sector in Bristol for further input around making plans for those being accommodated. Some of this population are now eligible for support.
The Director of Homes and Landlord Services and Head of Housing Options were thanked for their attendance and input.