The council has bought a further 13 new properties in 2020/21 - 10 to add to its existing council housing stock for those on the councils’ homeseeker’s register and three to help ease homelessness.
The 13 completed purchases are a mixture of one, two and three bedroom properties and spread across the Borough. They have been bought as part of the Council’s ongoing acquisitions programme.
The acquisition programme is part of the Council’s Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy. The homes are purchased in part, using money from Right to Buy receipts. This is the money the council gets from selling council homes to existing tenants and which it has to use to fund further housing otherwise it has to be repaid to the HM Treasury.
Three of the homes are single bedroom and were bought using £600,000 of Government funding for the Next Steps Accommodation Programme. The properties will be used as non-secure tenancies to help those moving on from homelessness.
The scheme is similar to Housing First, where a stable home is given to a vulnerable person who wants a tenancy so they can rebuild their life. The approach has been used worldwide with up to 90% success of ending homelessness, plus improvements in health and wellbeing, and reduced contact with public services, which is often ineffective.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with responsibility for housing, said: “The Next Steps Accommodation Programme is one of the many projects we have launched in the past year to tackle the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping in Southend-on-Sea and I’m also very pleased we have been able to acquire these extra homes as part of our acquisitions programme to slightly ease the pressures on our council home waiting lists.
“The acquisition programme forms part of the wider Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy, designed to tackle the town’s housing issues and aim for our Southend 2050 ambition of everyone having a home that suits their needs.
“Following the very successful ‘Everyone In’ campaign, our housing and homelessness teams immediately started working towards supporting people into stable accommodation. Our rough sleeper count may be down to single figures, but we still have more work to do and these single bedroom homes are an important step.”
Finding a stable home can make all the difference, as one former rough sleeper told us. The person, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I lost my rented accommodation and became a rough sleeper, rough sleeping in a tent on the Cliffs area in Southend.
“In January 2021, I was picked up by a rough sleeper navigator who placed me in a local B&B. This allowed me to settle in and work towards coming off the street and eradicate the rough sleeper stigma.
“Through the work and support from the navigator, council officers and support from One Love, I am now settling into my own accommodation. I received assistance from the council in purchasing white goods I needed to help settle down. This has given me hope and opportunity to start rebuilding my life and I am now assisting others as a volunteer with One Love.”
If you feel you are at risk of homelessness, please call our Housing Solutions Team who may be able to help on 01702 215002.
If you see someone sleeping rough you can send their location to Streetlink. The referral will send an outreach worker to the location to visit the person and support them to access the services they need.
If you are concerned about a rough sleeper who is under 18, please call 999.