THE cost of New Forest District Council accommodating homeless people during the height of the coronavirus pandemic totalled more than £257,000, it has emerged.
At the height of the crisis 85 people presented as homeless to the council – with the majority single men, a report to the cabinet revealed. Despite the “considerable shortfall” to the council’s finances, cabinet member for housing Cllr Jill Cleary assured the support will continue.
“I know there is an impact arising from the actions we took at the height of the pandemic, however, it was undoubtedly the right thing to do,” she said. “We will continue to have discussions with the government over any available funding, and we are in it for the long haul.”
The report said the council “maintained frontline homelessness services at all times” between March and July, partnering with the South Lawn Hotel in Milford to help it cope with the crisis.
It added: “The pandemic has seen an increase in rough sleepers being accommodated by the council. There has also been a significant increase in single people, particularly males, presenting to the council as homeless.
“At the height of the pandemic, over 85 households were in external emergency temporary accommodation and many of these households had complex needs.
“Whilst the success in placing people in emergency temporary accommodation is acknowledged, there has been a significant increase in accommodation costs to the council.
“Over £257,000 has been spent over and above the [overall NFDC] budget position for the period March-July 2020, and these pressures will continue for some time as there is likely to be an increased demand in the medium term future.”
It can bid for newly announced national grant funding and was awaiting more details, but there will be a “considerable shortfall falling on the council”.
The report said a task-and-finish group urged NFDC to buy more temporary accommodation for rough sleepers – which the cabinet endorsed.