Over 1,200 homeless people in Welwyn Hatfield ask the council for help every year

PUBLISHED: 12:12 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:50 10 October 2019

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council deals with over 1200 cases a year. Picture: Pexels.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council deals with over 1200 cases a year. Picture: Pexels.

Archant

Over 1,200 Welwyn Hatfield residents who face homelessness, or have already lost their homes, ask the council for help every year.

Ahead of today's World Homelessness Day, the Welwyn Hatfield Times looked at what support Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council are supplying and if this is working.

In 30 per cent of cases family breakdown plays a huge role in the reason why people are facing homelessness in the borough.

One woman, who was 18 at the time her mother forced her to leave home, told the WHT she was forced to sleep in a park for two nights.

She said: "The council were aware, and then a friend allowed me to stay with them for a while until I found somewhere more suitable."

The council, who often sees these cases, runs mediation between parents and their children.

However the 18-year-old, who was pregnant after moving into Howlands House and other temporary accommodation, before she was housed by the council last year.

Similarly a couple from Welwyn Garden City and their three year old son were told to "evacuate" the man's father's home after a new girlfriend was moved in.

The family said the support from the council was "quite good", and they were moved first into temporary Howlands and Ispira houses before a permanent flat became available.

A woman from Welwyn Garden City also faced homelessness several times with a 14-year-old and a 20-year-old after a marriage breakdown.

She lived in a one-bed flat in Hatfield and then a "dirty" private three-bed house in Welwyn Garden City, which she was forced to leave after a landlord bust up, and then spent three months sofa surfing.

She said: "We got a solicitor and were taking the council to court - days before the court date the council backed down and said they had a responsibility to house us.

"We were offered a flat and have been there since on a five year tenancy, we have just signed for another five".

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The council says the threat of legal action plays no part in its decision making.

"Everyone has the right to legally challenge the action we've taken - and with so many cases each year - we appreciate that we may not get everything right all of the time," a spokeswoman said.

The housing options team often sees cases of medical issues leading to job loss and difficulty paying rent.

It recently helped a 50-year-old man who became homeless following an illness that resulted in the breakdown of his marriage and job.

The council spokeswoman said: "This man had been rough sleeping in a tent for over a year which was making his health condition worse." Rent deposit, provide by the council, secured a deposit on a flat.

A similar referral by the NHS, of a man in his 50s who was rough sleeping, gave him temporary accommodation and Adult Social Care, NHS and Job Centre Plus support. He was also given priority on the housing register to help him secure a council or housing association home.

As part of its wider move to address housing shortage and homelessness, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council agreed a new 'Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy' on September 26.

Most of its efforts have been concentrated on adding more rooms to Howlands House to almost double the number of rooms available, creating a new temporary scheme for Hatfield, building homes with its new housing company, working with housing associations, giving £120k to help open the Hatfield night shelter and giving grants to the Housing First scheme in partnership with Drug Link.

The council also gives debt, benefits and money advice, talks to landlords, runs a mediation service and looks into re-housing options.

A spokeswoman said: "We also offer help with deposits or rent in advance to secure private rented accommodation and have recently appointed to a new post, which is to help improve access to the private rented sector for families in housing need.

"We urge people to talk to us as soon as possible."

The council has a duty to provide help for those already homeless and likely to become homeless within 56 days, so if you need help please visit the council's homelessness team at the Council Offices, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, United Kingdom, AL8 6AE.

You can also make an appointment via telephone at 01707 357 613 or email housingallocationsteam@welhat.gov.uk.

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