Homelessness can be associated with severe poverty and is a social determinant of mental health. It can also have a severe impact upon an individual’s physical health and homeless people are more likely to be victims of crime. The causes of homelessness are often complex so that preventing homelessness is a difficult issue to address. There is a statutory duty for local authorities to provide advice and assistance to households who are homeless, or threatened with homelessness, and is some cases to provide suitable accommodation. In certain circumstances they also have a duty to provide emergency accommodation.
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 made far-reaching changes to homelessness legislation and significantly amends the Housing Act 1996. It came into force in April 2018. Under the Act, local housing authorities will be required to intervene at earlier stages in order to prevent homelessness and to take reasonable steps to help those who become homeless to secure accommodation, or to maintain their existing accommodation. Its main purpose is to ensure that everyone who approaches a local authority because they are either facing homelessness or actually homeless should receive some assistance, whether they are in priority need or not, and irrespective of whether they may be considered intentionally homeless.
The Housing Solutions Team carries out prevention work which includes assisting applicants to find and secure their own accommodation. The chart below shows the large number of cases in which homelessness prevention was successful.
In Herefordshire the number of homelessness applications has declined in recent years. In 2015/16 there were 114 applications, representing a rate of 1.4 per 1,000 households, well below the rate for England of 5 per 1,000. The rate of statutory homelessness was 0.5 per 1,000 households in 2015-16; lower than in both England (2.5) and the West Midlands region (3.5).
Figure 1. Homelessness applications - decisions made per 1,000 households
Source: Public Health England
In 2016/17 in Herefordshire, the rate of those considered to be statutory homeless but not in priority need of 0.1 per 1,000 households was lower than in England (0.8) and had fallen from a rate of 0.5 in 2013/14.
Although numbers are difficult to establish with certainty, the number of rough sleepers in Herefordshire was estimated at 11 in 2017, down from 21 the previous year. The Hereford Winter Shelter was open between December 2016 and March 2017. In this period a total of 66 (59 men and 7 women) individuals stayed for a total of 861 nights. The approximate average stay per person was 13 nights. This compares to a total of 79 individuals staying for a total of 1,124 nights in 2015-16, which was an approximate average stay per person of 14.2 nights.
The Herefordshire Homelessness Prevention Strategy 2016-2020 sets out a series of actions aimed at reducing homelessness and rough sleeping in the county.