HOMELESSNESS in Solihull and the West Midlands has risen by 20 per cent, startling new figures reveal.
The in-depth data for 2016/7 has been compiled by homeless charity Shelter.
It responded by launching an urgent appeal to the public as temperatures drop in the run-up to Chistmas.
The charity’s figures show 20,900 people in the West Midlands have been recorded homeless, up 22 per cent on the previous year.
In the most extensive review of its kind, the housing charity combined official rough-sleeping, temporary accommodation and social services figures.
According to the Shelter report, Solihull is the third worst affected region in the West Midlands with a conservative estimate showing 674 people as officially homeless, up from 485 last year.
This equates to 1 in every 314 people.
It compares to 1 in 88 people in Birmingham and 1 in 229 people in Coventry, the first and second worst affected areas in the West Midlands.
It is also a pressing national issue with the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) figures showing the number of people sleeping rough in England rose by 134 per cent between 2010 and 2016.
Shelter has launched an urgent appeal in response to the mounting crisis, calling on the public to support its frontline advisers as they work tirelessly to help people to stay in their home or find a new one.
We spoke with Solihull councillors on the issue.
Green councillor Jean Hamilton expects an increase for homelessness in Solihull to continue “in line with the rest of the country”.
She said “a shortage of social housing” has contributed to an increase in homelessness.
Her Green colleague Max McLoughlin agreed, stating homelessness in Solihull is an “invisible problem” as the worst affected people remain hidden behind the statistics.
He continued: “What we are experiencing is increasing severity of cases and the number of cases themselves increasing.
“There isn’t enough affordable housing and the services aren’t good enough – people are having to find temporary accommodation.
“It’s shameful that someone from Solihull goes to Birmingham to get support for homelessness.
“We should be setting an example, not hoping someone else will catch people when they fall.”
On a similar note, Liberal Democrat councillor Ade Adeyemo warned the “clearance around the (Birmingham) town centre means the possibility of more people seeking refuge in Solihull.”
He urged against complacency, asserting: “When we get to this time of year, these issues become a big worry”.
Councicllor Alison Rolf, cabinet member for environment and housing, responded to criticism of the council with the following statement: “I have only been in post for a short time but at my last decision-making session I approved the use of receipts from right-to-buy properties to convert an office building into a couple of flats.
“The government allows the council to retain a proportion of receipts from right-to-buy properties to be used to repay debt outstanding on the houses sold.
“In fact the council is proposing to use £6 million of those receipts to replenish housing stock rather than pay off debt which shows our commitment to the issue.
“I am particularly pleased about the opening of Ipswich House in Chelmsley Wood in September this year which provides short-term accommodation in 21 units for people who are homeless and is proving successful.”
Shelter compiled this information via a Freedom of Information request and figures on single homeless hostel bed spaces from Homeless Link’s annual report.
To support Shelter’s urgent appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3.