Serious homeless concerns raised

BOSTON could be facing serious problems with homelessness in the coming years if action is not taken now, a leading councillor has warned.

Coun Mike Gilbert, Boston Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing, issued a grim warning to colleagues that the council must act now to stave off issues with increasing homelessness in the borough in the future, including a possible increase in crime and a stretch on services.

He was speaking at a meeting of the corporate and community committee on Thursday, in which members discussed issues around homelessness in the borough.

At the meeting, John Marshall, chief executive of homeless charity Centrepoint Outreach, told councillors that over the past decade the number of people using the charity has trebled. The amount has doubled in the last five years alone. Around 12,500 people have used the Red Lion Street charity in the last decade.

In October, the charity helped 26 rough sleepers by providing them with a meal, a drink, a blanket and clean clothes. Mr Marshall said they had also dealt with a number of sofa-surfers, which Centrepoint also classed as homeless.

Around half the people who came to the charity were foreign nationals, who had either been unable to find work or could not work enough hours to fund proper accommodation said Mr Marshall.

He said: “If they do find work sometimes they are not earning enough and being employed for enough hours to put a roof over their heads or sustain themselves.”

Committee member Coun Ossy Snell said their wans’t always work for foreign nationals coming to Boston.

Rachel Everitt, who works for an organisation which helps foreign nationals who are in financial difficulty to either get help in the UK or aid them in getting back to their own country, said there are many reasons why migrants can become homeless.

She added: “They come over for work and work for weeks, months or years, and if that opportunity is taken away, it can be difficult.

“Some people are homeless by choice. We have people who are not entitled to benefits and they don’t want to go home.”

The council is due to issue its new housing strategy early next year, and homelessness will be an important part of it, according to the committee.

Coun Gilbert said: “Without starting the process now this town and this borough will find itself in seriously dire straits within the next 10 years or so.”