Homeless work gets £1m boost

HOMELESS young people in Harrogate will benefit from part of a £1m overhaul of council services.

A new initiative will see the town given a one-stop shop, funded by North Yorkshire County Council, aiming to stop young people being “shunted around” between agencies.

Staffed by new homeless prevention officers, six county “hubs” will be launched as a first port of call for anyone aged between 16 and 25 facing life on the streets.

The hubs, including one in Harrogate, are expected to be up and running by the end of October.

The county council’s social inclusion officer for children and young people’s services, David Walker, said: “There’s a growing problem of homelessness nationally and North Yorkshire is not immune to that. If we hadn’t changed our approach we wouldn’t have been able to cope with the expected rise.

“There are all kinds of pressures on families. Some teenagers are homeless because their parents are struggling to pay bills. They might have been in a family house and suddenly need to find accommodation.”

The hubs will form part of a “pathway” of support, which starts with work in schools and the community, educating young people on homelessness and encouraging them to stay in the family home.

This moves on to targeted preventative services, identifying and working with young people who have reached crisis point.

The next step is short-term overnight emergency accommodation and then longer-term rehousing for priority cases and for young people where there is a legal of duty of care.

Mr Walker added: “In the past there was a postcode lottery in North Yorkshire and it depended on where you lived as to whether you got support.

“Now the county council has joined forces with seven district councils, along with housing associations and accommodation providers, and formed a partnership to provide good quality accommodation and related services for the whole county.

“This is the first time we have done this in North Yorkshire as we have always operated through our own service and our own premises.”

The authority said the £1m scheme for the county will save money as resources are pooled and extra levels of management are removed. It said the scheme could provide a model for the way other services could be run.

County Coun Carl Les said: “The Government is urging the use of community budgets and in this instance we have just got on with it, pooling our resources to offer best practice and support for some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.

“The contribution from the district councils and our other partners has been crucial to enabling this to happen.

“We believe this framework and the introduction of prevention hubs will help to reduce repeat homelessness as well as homelessness among young people altogether.

“In effect this is a mediation service for young people in danger of ending up on the streets.”