By Leigh Boobyer – Local Democracy Reporter
More than £700,000 was spent on providing emergency accommodation for the homeless in the last year in Gloucester – four times as much as four years ago.
Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service show the £712,985 outlay by the city council was four times the £170,322 in 2014/15.
The sharp rise in costs occurred in 2015/16, when it stood at £191,147, and jumped to £538,358 the following year, according to the FOI.
This means that Gloucester City Council spent £174,627 more on making sure homeless people had a place to live last year than it did in the previous 12 months.
But the FOI added that the council has only budgeted £265,000 to spend on emergency accommodation this year – £462,985 less than what the authority spent last year.
Residents are put into emergency accommodation when deemed homeless in what is meant to be a temporary move – but figures show people have been going months without a proper home.
One stay racked up to 41 weeks, costing a total of £6,170.50, the FOI said.
A council official said finding available affordable and suitable housing is “a real challenge” and have to look for more expensive accommodation like hotels.
Lloyd Griffiths, Head of Communities at Gloucester City Council, said: “Homelessness is serious national issue and one that as a council we have a statutory duty to address.
“We are working hard to assist the increasing numbers of people who approach the council, with a wide range of initiatives including our forthcoming Landlord Incentive Scheme aimed at encouraging private landlords to make properties available to households receiving benefits.
“However, like all urban areas our challenges include an increase in the number of applicants with complex needs, a rise in the cost of temporary accommodation and more people needing assistance following the Homelessness Reduction Act 2016 that extends our responsibilities.
“The demand for housing far outweighs the supply and we find the availability of affordable and suitable housing a real challenge, which means we have to rely on more expensive accommodation such as hotels. Our recently launched plan ‘Planned Improvements to Manage Demand for Temporary Accommodation’ will address this issue further. Helping those in need of housing and support is a priority for this council.”