NEW plans are underway to reduce the number of homeless people in Winchester.

City councillors discussed their officers’ ideas for preventing the problem.

Officers said it was crucial to tackle the causes such as substance abuse, domestic violence and mental illness, rather than simply house people temporarily.

Gillian Knight, housing options manager, said: “The council is required under the terms of the Homelessness Act 2002 to produce a homelessness strategy. The last strategy has now expired and a new five year Preventing Homelessness Strategy has been prepared which, for your consideration, reflects current priorities and best practice trends in Housing Options services.

“There are a range of issues which need to be considered when determining the council’s statutory responsibilities under homelessness legislation. However, homelessness is wider than those statutory responsibilities and all local authorities are encouraged to offer support and identify solutions for all homeless people.”

Councillors praised the work of agencies who had worked hard over the last few years to help homeless people, citing works done by Trinity and the possible development of a wet shelter.

Cabinet chairman, Cllr Tony Coates, said: “We currently have a programme with regards to people discharged from hospital or prison to ensure they are not discharged to no fixed abode without us being made aware and proper arrangements being made. We also have the No Second Night Programme which works very well which has seen Trinity step forward and take on an extra 10 people. For domestic violence victims we also have a hostel to help them find their way.”

The strategy will also look to help people who have been made homeless as a result of losing their job and falling behind on rent arrears.

Ms Knight said: “We’ve had some huge success in the past and we’re working closely with landlords to provide more long term lets, often of up to 12 months, [to try and minimise such a high turnover of tenants]. I believe we do have a generation of people who will be looking to rent rather than buy.”