Harrogate Homeless Project blame town's house prices for record Christmas users

Harrogate Homeless Project has claimed rising house prices in the town has contributed to a record number of people using their service over Christmas.

Monday, 11th January 2016, 4:08 pm
Updated Monday, 11th January 2016, 4:14 pm
Pictured at Harrogate Homeless Project are NSNO Project Leader Andy Kirk and HHP Project Manager Liz Hancock.

The charity revealed that between October 1 and December 30th 2015, 44 people were provided with emergency shelter after being referred through No Second Night Out (NSNO).

Almost half of those people were provided with an offer of a hostel room but only six people could be assisted with securing privately rented accommodation.

Andy Kirk, NSNO project leader, explained the increasing difficulty of persuading private landlords to accept their clients as a result of rising property prices in Harrogate.

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He said: "It used to be that private landlords and letting agents would be reluctant to grant lettings to residents without an income but now they are even reluctant to grant them to those on low incomes.

"This is why we are finding it harder and harder to find people accommodation. We have a lot of clients on our books and we are trying to get offers to them all the time.

"It's a matter of trying to support people with emergency shelter but we do struggle with getting housing offers to people when private tenancy is not suitable."

Mr Kirk added that more and more people were being referred to the charity every day through NSNO as well as utilising their cold weather provision, Springboard.

This service operates when the temperature is forecast to drop to zero degrees or below for three consecutive nights to ensure no one dies on the street as a result.

Over the winter, the charity regularly took in residents in the double digits and Mr Kirk warned that more users from normal backgrounds were beginning to use the service.

He said: "People are now more likely to access support because it's so cold out there. we are getting more people coming through and a lot of people who have never accessed us before.

"A lot of the people who are using it for the first time aren't drug or alcohol abusers, they are just normal people with little support needs.

"We are definitely noticing a rise in the numbers using our services, we have 16 bedrooms here and, at the moment, they are always full.

"We try and accommodate everybody but as you can imagine it's like spinning plates trying to sort people out for the first time as well as people who have been a number of times."

In an attempt to secure housing for their clients, Mr Kirk said the service had even been forced to recommend properties outside the Harrogate district to their clients.

"It's very difficult to manage and it's extremely sad having to tell people we are looking outside the Harrogate district in order to get them housing," Mr Kirk said.

"But, at the end of the day it's better than being out on the street. We just try and work with people and see if they would accept it as an offer.

"But obviously some people don't want to leave their family and friends. Unfortunately there are still just too many people that are sleeping rough in Harrogate."