A new homelessness strategy has been produced by St Albans City and District Council, offering further support to those without a permanent home.
The council’s draft policy outlines plans for ensuring accommodation and help is available to people who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming so.
It has been developed through consultation with partners from St Albans District Homeless Forum including Open Door Night Shelter, Hightown Housing Association, Herts Young Homeless and Emmaus.
Affordable housing pressures are an increasing problem across Hertfordshire, where local authorities have seen house price growth exceed both the regional and national average, according to research from Savills.
In St Albans median property prices are more than 16 times average incomes, amongst the highest of any local council outside London.
Houses typically sell for over £600,000 within the city – making the demand for affordable housing even greater.
There were 798 approaches for homeless assistance and advice to St Albans Council’s housing department in 2020-21.
This included 200 enquiries from individuals who had been asked to leave their family home, 90 people fleeing domestic abuse and 79 due to a relationship breakdown.
A further 49 requests came from people leaving prison, 39 rough sleepers, along with 34 sofa surfers.
The council’s new homelessness strategy includes commitments to eradicate rough sleeping in the district, improve services for people fleeing domestic abuse, as well as enhancing relations with the private-rented sector.
The plan also lists the actions that will be undertaken by the local authority such as continuing to fund an outreach worker to maintain contact with rough sleepers, and providing extra beds during the winter months.
Councillor Jacqui Taylor, Chair of the Housing and Inclusion Committee, said: “Tackling homelessness and eradicating rough sleeping in the district are among our main priorities.
“We have been improving our services in this area year on year and rose to the formidable challenges posed by the pandemic by taking an active role in the nationwide Everyone In campaign to get vulnerable people off the streets.
“We’ll pursue our ambitions to end rough sleeping and continue to intervene to help those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
“The adoption of this revised homeless strategy provides us with the way forward over the next three years.
“We are fortunate in that we do not have a high number of rough sleepers compared to some other districts, but it is still a vitally important issue for us.
“Our draft strategy has at its core a number of pledges that will guide our future work on all aspects of homelessness.
“The relationship we have with our partner organisations is key to tackling the issue of homelessness in the district.
“We are now working with them to finalise our preparation for the challenging winter months.”
The Homelessness Act 2002 requires local authorities across the country to take strategic responsibility for tackling and preventing homelessness.
In recent months, St Albans Council has carried out several initiatives to help support people who are homeless.
This includes obtaining extra government funding to take 31 rough sleepers off the streets, in addition to working on the Housing First programme.