Council aims to deliver outstanding solution to homelessness - it’s a vital social responsibility and a duty that we take very seriously, says East Devon

Homelessness is one of the worst life experiences a person or a household can suffer and an effective homelessness  strategy can make a massive difference to people experiencing homelessness.

It is also a vital social responsibility, which East Devon takes very seriously and, as a housing  authority it is the council’s aim to be outstanding at delivering this duty*.

To this end, the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy 2019-2023 has been produced (based on the results of a review of homelessness in the area) in order to provide direction and clarity as to how East Devon District Council will approach and tackle homelessness over the next five years.

East Devon has a good track record for preventing homelessness, but the council is operating in challenging times.

The strategy arrives on the back of the biggest change to homelessness legislation over the past 40 years, the Homelessness Reduction Act, which has been effective from April 2018 and has placed more onerous responsibilities on local authorities, who have a duty to assist people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Consultation has been key throughout the process of formulating the strategy, which has been produced by the Housing Strategy team in consultation with councillors, council staff and our external partners and charities who work with people in homeless situations. In addition, the council has consulted with former service users in order to gain a clear perspective of experiencing homelessness.

As a result of the consultation, four key priorities have been identified:

  • Maximise prevention activities and outcomes
  • Increase accommodation options
  • Minimise rough sleeping
  • Improve health and wellbeing

These four priorities link with East Devon’s overarching housing aim – a decent home for all. The council acknowledges that it cannot achieve everything that it would like to achieve alone, and therefore partnership working and a council-wide priority of preventing homelessness are constant themes.

The strategy will be a live document, which will evolve to reflect and respond to change as required. Working with our internal and external partners, an action plan will be produced to implement the strategy.

A working group will be made up of service users, council staff, councillors and colleagues from other organisations and agencies in order to co-ordinate and report on progress against the agreed actions over the period of the strategy. The action plan will form part of the wider Housing Service Plan, and will be reviewed every six months.

Homelessness is a subject that is close to the heart of Cllr Jill Elson, East Devon’s portfolio holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities, who is passionate about this aspect of her work.

Commenting on the strategy Cllr Elson said:

We cannot stand still in helping those who become homeless or become a 'rough sleeper'. Our aim is to prevent as many as possible from ending up in temporary accommodation or as a rough sleeper.

 We work with many agencies in Exmouth and Exeter to help our excellent staff to work in partnership with other professionals or charities e.g. The Open Door Centre, who all do their very best to give a person or family a home.

 We all know a 'roof over ones' head' gives stability to any person or family. All these people do their best to help with some of the causes of homelessness. It maybe that they are in debt, mental health, addiction or a young person being thrown out of the family home - many different causes.

These people need help and support to overcome the trauma, so we have to work with others not just NHS as all our funds are limited so we need to use it in the best way possible because it is tax payer’s money.

*Formulating a homelessness strategy is a statutory requirement, as directed in the Homelessness Act 2002