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Homelessness rises 25 per cent in East Devon

Friday, 1 December 2023 07:50

By Will Goddard, local democracy reporter

An increasing issue in East Devon (image courtesy: BBC Spotlight)

Almost 150 Ukrainian households affected

Homelessness is on the rise in East Devon, with the future also looking bleak for refugees and asylum seekers, with almost 150 Ukrainian households either homeless or at risk of homelessness when their ‘hosting’ arrangements come to an end.

The total number of times homeless people approached East Devon District Council (EDDC) for help has risen by a quarter over the past five years, and the number this financial year is expected to “eclipse” the previous one. 

The local authority believes the trend is because of housing shortages in general, an increase in demand for social housing, as well as the “extremely limited availability” of supported accommodation projects. 

Just one such project, Alexandra House in Exmouth, is currently “under threat” because of potential Devon County Council (DCC) budget cuts.

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent, Axminster) spoke about the potential impact of the DCC cuts in an impassioned speech at a cabinet meeting this week.

He said: “It’s a basic human right to have a roof over your head. 

“I get so frustrated by this because it impacts on health, it impacts on mental health, it impacts on children, on education. 

“It is completely self-defeating cutting this because the costs are profound elsewhere. 

“No local authorities can afford it. It’s a growing problem. It’s a growing national problem.  

“I believe that each and every ward member here, this district council, the county council, every county council, should write to national government… and say, it’s not enough, you need to fund local councils to provide these solutions.”  

A decision is expected on the proposed county council budget cuts before the end of the year.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to resolve homelessness cases because of a lack of options, with the number of households placed in temporary accommodation rising year on year.  

In addition, there is a looming prospect of more refugees being made homeless. 

There are currently 71 Ukrainian households that are homeless in East Devon, with a further 75 still hosted in the district – but there is reportedly a “high possibility” these families too will be made homeless when their hosting arrangements end. 

An Exmouth bridging hotel closed in August, with the Home Office giving notice to the occupants, creating a “large-scale homeless situation” of 18 households.  

An asylum hotel in East Devon currently houses 65 families.  

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