UDC budget for a rise in the homeless

A COUNCIL has raised part of its budget to help homeless people by ONE THIRD after members expressed “deep concerns” about the plight of residents facing up to severe Government cuts.

With “hard times ahead” Uttlesford District Council has moved to increase its homelessness reserve to �25,000 to deal with any problems that may arise as people struggle to pay bills and face up to eviction notices.

Cabinet member for housing and the community Robert Chambers highlighted some of the difficulties residents and the council may face.

He said: “We need to provide a contingency plan to cope with the increased incidence of people presenting themselves to us as officially homeless, this is a trend that we expect to continue over the next few years.

“Should the problem get seriously worse, we will need to be prepared for it and be prepared to help people in the district wherever we can.”

Cllr Julie Redfern welcomed the news but also urged the council to look even further into increasing the money held in the bank should people require it.

She added: “The increase is a good one, and welcomed by all of us, but I wonder if we should increase our reserve more because the problem is likely to increase.”

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The homelessness reserve was created earlier this year in response to an increase in requests for help from the public, and it is a back-up to the overall homeless budget that the council already has in its armoury.

Both are used to ensure the council meets high standards in customer care by treating people with courtesy, fairness, honesty and respect, and to make sure that services are accessible to everyone.

More information and help is available at uttlesford.gov.uk.

• ARE you concerned about being left on the streets? E-mail us at editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk, or write to us at 54 High Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1EE.

Snapshot: Recovering from life on the streets

A Big Issue seller for 18 years, Keith, aged 44, runs his own patch around Saffron Walden during the week and has first hand experience of life on the streets.

He said: “It can be really tough, but you do meet some amazing people along the way. Thankfully these days I have my own place and use the money from selling the Big Issue to pay the bills.”

He confessed that a drink problem sparked his homelessness many years ago, but he has had a place of his own for seven years now, and he has held jobs as a carer and as a magazine seller.

“You can never get any lower than being left on the streets, my advice to people is never give up – I turned things around. But if it happens to you stay away from the big cities, they are dangerous and people are unfriendly.”

It is not all bad news…

Homeless charity Shelter’s latest repossession survey shows that Uttlesford has the lowest repossession rate in Essex with 1.9 per cent orders per 1,000 households.

Harlow is the main repossession hot spot at 4.9 possession orders per 1,000 households.