Focus on affordable housing and the rise of rough sleeping in new council strategy

A rough sleeper on the floor of the Stratford Centre. Picture: Archant

A rough sleeper on the floor of the Stratford Centre. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Newham Council has drawn up a dedicated strategy for dealing with issues contributing to homelessness and the rise of rough sleepers in the borough.

It worked with homeless charity Shelter on the new strategy, which was adopted by cabinet on Tuesday and covers the two years to December 2021.

The council says a shortage of social rented property, high private rents and benefits changes have pushed more residents into homelessness, which is defined as not having access to suitable accommodation.

As a result, there are more than 27,000 households on the council waiting list and over 5,000 in temporary accommodation - at a cost of £5.5million each year.

Since 2015/16, rough sleeping in Newham has increased by 135 per cent, with a particular concentration in and around the Stratford Centre.

The council says Stratford has become one of the largest rough sleeping hotspots in London, drawing people from outside the borough.

To tackle these challenges, the new strategy is split into an interim programme and a longer term plan.

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Corporate director of adults and health Colin Ansell said: "The council is working from a historically very low base of provision for rough sleepers and homelessness prevention.

"This administration has prioritised this provision, and alongside policies designed to increase the availability of genuinely affordable property, it is committed to reduce the need for anyone to sleep on the streets, or face the threat of homelessness.

"We have a long way to go, but with our partners and community support we are determined to improve the current situation, both in the short and long term."

Plans are in place to build at least 1,000 genuinely affordable social rented homes by 2022.

The interim programme is already under way, tackling the immediate and urgent issues like implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 as well as measures to deal with rough sleeping.

The council has established a rough sleeping taskforce, which brings together relevant council departments with representatives from charities, businesses, the health sector, government and people who have experienced rough sleeping.

It has also set up co-production forum Newham Homelessness Action Group to find grassroots solutions to the wider homelessness problem.