Over 200 of St Albans’ poorest stuck in temporary accommodation by council

PUBLISHED: 14:07 16 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:41 16 August 2017

The Premier Inn in High Wycombe, which St Albans council has used to accommodate homeless people in the past. Photo: GOOGLE

The Premier Inn in High Wycombe, which St Albans council has used to accommodate homeless people in the past. Photo: GOOGLE

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Droves of the district’s destitute are being dropped in temporary accommodation by St Albans council.

A Herts Advertiser investigation into the district’s hidden homeless found the number of people the council gave temporary accommodation rose by 64 per cent between 2011/12 to 2016/17.

Which has left taxpayers having to foot a bill for over £30,000.

Hightown housing association chief executive, David Bogle, said: “There is huge need for affordable housing in St Albans, and in other parts of the country. As a Herts-based housing association, we understand the housing issues local people are facing and we offer a range of accommodation starting with temporary accommodation for the most vulnerable people in society, through to more permanent housing for affordable rent or shared ownership.”

The number of people placed in temporary accommodation by St Albans council went from 125 in 2011/12, to 206 in 2016/17.

Homeless girl sleeping rough.Homeless girl sleeping rough.

A lack of affordable housing has been blamed for the problem, after it was revealed the council was failing to meet its own targets.

The number of those who have been placed in private-run accommodation has also risen, from one person to 54 people over the same period.

Over the years, those in private accommodation have been scattered far and wide, with some being sent to live as far as Buckinghamshire. Others have been sent to hotels and B&Bs in Luton, Stevenage, Flamstead, and Kings Langley.

At one B&B, Alexandra Guest House in Hemel Hempstead, en-suite family rooms are rented out for £89 a night.

The majority of people in temporary accommodation are put up in council-owned accommodation. This number rose from 124 people to 152 between 2011/12 and 2016/17. Altogether, temporary accommodation cost St Albans council £35,031 in 2016/17. This was an increase of £32,271 from 2011/12, when the amount was £2,760.

These figures do not, however, include the amounts paid to Hightown housing association to resettle people.

People like Rhys Walker, 26, who was homeless until being accepted into a Hightown housing association hostel in St Albans.

After sofa surfing for ages and even sleeping rough for two months, he was given a place at Kent House and completed his driving test and an IT course.

Rhys Walker, 26, who was given a place in a Hightown housing association hostel after spending time sleeping rough. Photo: HIGHTOWNRhys Walker, 26, who was given a place in a Hightown housing association hostel after spending time sleeping rough. Photo: HIGHTOWN

All of which have helped move him further to his ambition of becoming an estate agent.

He said: “Before I moved into Kent House I didn’t know where I was going in life and had no direction.

“Since coming here, I’ve been so much happier. When I need support, the staff are always here for me and help me to open up about things.”

He is now in a Hightown social rent flat of his own in St Albans.

Hightown say their work supporting homeless people saves the police, the NHS and council £600,000 a year.

The company declined to comment on the amount they received from the council.

However records show they received £288,000 in grants and rent payments from St Albans council over the past six months.

Head of housing for St Albans council, Karen Dragovic, said: “We have a legal duty to consider helping homeless people who approach us. They are placed in temporary accommodation while we investigate their homeless application.

“We try to ensure that we use accommodation owned and managed by ourselves or a housing association.

“If spaces are not available, we will use private, bed and breakfast accommodation instead.

“We also try to ensure all applicants are placed within the district. There are occasions when due to the circumstances this is not possible, so people may have to be accommodated elsewhere.

“When homeless applications are accepted, the households involved will be found a council or housing association property.

“The number or people making homeless applications varies year to year and current numbers reflect national trends.

“We have developed a robust action plan within our homelessness strategy to try and prevent homelessness in the district and deal with it when it does occur.

“One of the essential elements is partnership working and we work with several other organisations across the district on the often complex issues associated with homelessness. These can include domestic violence, substance abuse and poor mental health.”

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