WINCHESTER City Council are looking to put an end to 'rough sleeping' in the Winchester district by 2023 – despite county council funding being reduced by £1.8 million.

Civic chiefs unveiled their new Homeless and Rough Sleeping Strategy at cabinet last Wednesday, which details how they will "ensure no one needs to sleep rough" across the next four years.

It focusses on providing early intervention and support, promoting system change through partnership arrangements, and supplying more accommodation.

But the report, which was unanimously approved, states that "those with less critical support needs will need to seek help from alternative sources" following a reduction in county council funding.

Cllr Kelsie Learney believes the new strategy will "refresh the current and keep up the gold standard".

She told the committee: "This is an ambitious action plan to continuously improve the homeless situation across the district.

"The council has a very good reputation around homelessness prevention, and has some key partners in the city, including fantastic charities and the very good services available."

"I was sat on the bus yesterday, and someone behind me bumped into an old friend. I overheard them talking about how they had been thrown out of a flat, lost their job. But they said their life had been turned around when they moved into a council flat.

"A housing-first approach is best – helping the people secure their lifestyle and making sure they can maintain their working lives as well."

Former city councillor Ian Tait believes a lot of the beggars in Winchester are 'not homeless', and that a different scheme is needed to help them.

Mr Tait said: "When Cllr Hiscock was mayor, he featured a homeless person and said the council were helping him. Not long ago I saw him begging on the streets.

"I don't think any of these beggars are genuinely homeless, most of the people who are conceal themselves from the public eye.

"The council need to address the lack of funding for chaotic lives, for those with drug addictions and alcoholism.

"These people you see stealing and fighting, I think the authority need to look at that – these people are not homeless, and need to be supported in another way."

He added: "Of course, there is an issue with homelessness in the district, and I hope the new strategy succeeds."

Next month is set to see a renovated city centre premises come in to operation as accommodation to help people off the streets after it has sat vacant for 18 months.

Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council has teamed up with Hampshire-based homelessness support organisation Two Saints to reopen 84-86 Sussex Street.

James McDermott, regional director at Two Saints, said: “Two Saints are pleased to be working alongside other homeless services in Winchester and in partnership with Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council to deliver their Preventing Homelessness Strategy.

"Our service in Sussex Street will include 12 self-contained flats based on ‘Housing First’ principles, which means people in Winchester who are sleeping rough will be offered a home with intensive support to help them to maintain their tenancies and return to independent living.

"The building is being refurbished and will be operational in October 2019.”