WINCHESTER City Council is assessing how to prevent homelessness in the face of county council funding cuts.

The Economy and Housing Policy Committee heard six options, that could be used to tackle the predicted threat of homelessness, at a meeting at Winchester Guildhall on Tuesday, February 20.

Hampshire County Council funds some social inclusion services for vulnerable adults who would otherwise be homeless. However, the county council has proposed withdrawing all funding for social inclusion from April 2025.

The Winchester district currently receives £337,211 to support 25 beds at West View House (managed by A2Dominion) in Hyde and 13 bed spaces at Sussex Street (managed by Two Saints), plus £24,500 as a contribution to the Winchester Beacon.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Chris Westwood speaking at the meetingCllr Chris Westwood speaking at the meeting (Image: Newsquest)

Introducing the report, Cllr Chris Westwood, Cabinet member for housing, said: “This council is committed to preventing and relieving homelessness. We are aware of the trend across the country that may result in increased numbers of homeless people and the likely withdrawal of county council funding. This is a significant problem across the UK and the government needs to address it. I would at some stage anticipate more funding from a national level

Karen Thorburn, council officer, said: “If we don’t employ any of the options demand will outstrip supply quite quickly. These options look at how we can minimise the gap in supply and demand.”

Ms Thorburn explained all six options. Option one is to not implement any alternative accommodation options or policy changes that put pressure on the use of bed and breakfast (B&B) at a minimum cost of £72,795.

Option two would see the city council’s temporary accommodation team take control of a property in Sussex Street, increasing the number of bed spaces by 23 and reducing B&B costs by £12,075.

The third option is to reduce the move-on policy period for high priority people living in temporary accommodation from nine months to six months. This would create an extra 11 vacancies in temporary accommodation per quarter, reducing B&B costs by £16,800.

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Ms Thorburn said the impact of changing the move-on policy to other households on the register is minimal. It would mean 44 households who aren’t owed a full main housing duty under the homelessness legislation would have to wait slightly longer. However, it is likely in most of these cases that the need is not as imminent as that of a homeless household.

For option four, the council would support Trinity Winchester to convert three bed spaces within their existing building and to develop five new modular buildings. This would increase supply by eight-bed spaces and lower B&B costs by £4,200. Trinity believes the first units could be available by the end of the year.

Hampshire Chronicle: Trinity WinchesterTrinity Winchester (Image: Contributed)

The council would reduce the age range for sheltered accommodation from 60 to 55 for option five. In the last two quarters, 22 more applicants requiring accommodation under homelessness could have successfully been taken into sheltered accommodation if this was applied.

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The final option is to re-introduce 17 Eastacre as shared temporary accommodation for single households on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme and/or the Ukraine Family Scheme. This would create four additional bed spaces and cut B&B costs by £4,200 but if the move-on policy is amended to six months it could create eight more spaces in total.

If all options were implemented the gap in demand and supply of bedspaces would reduce from 139 to 24, saving £60,375 in bed and breakfast costs.

Tony Goldsby, a trustee from Trinity, and Tracy Jones, chair of the trustees at Winchester Beacon, both supported the approach from the housing team.

Vice-chair of the committee, Cllr Chris Chamberlain, said: “In reality, this is more a set of tasks that can be undertaken. Given the welfare concerns going forward, it should be a combination of the options to give us the best outcome.”

The options will be subject to consultation before agreement by Cabinet.