HOMELESSNESS in Denbighshire must be a top priority, says a concerned councillor.
Denbighshire’s performance scrutiny committee was presented with an annual homelessness report at the council’s Ruthin HQ.
The committee heard how Denbighshire currently has 316 households in emergency or temporary accommodation, but the council only knows of three rough sleepers.
One area of concern, though, was an over-concentration of homeless people in Rhyl.
Of the 316 households in emergency and temporary accommodation, 184 households are in emergency accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, and 132 households are in temporary accommodation.
Housing officer Ann Lloyd explained 324 households had come to the council presenting as homeless and had been moved through the system during the last year.
But she admitted that Rhyl had the worst problem with homelessness.
“The 184 in emergency accommodation has been pretty static since the start of COVID, so we are getting numbers in; we are getting numbers out, but what we are seeing is a pretty much flat line of the numbers still coming into homelessness,” she said.
“The majority of them are in the north of the county. The majority of them are accommodated in Rhyl, which is a problem for us, we know.
“We are trying to overcome that, but we do have homelessness right across the county in smaller numbers.
“We have got a slightly larger cluster in Llangollen. We’ve got homeless accommodated in Denbigh, Ruthin, but predominantly, unfortunately, the majority of them are up on the coast and are in Rhyl.
“But the demand can come anywhere and any time as well. We find in the south of the county, it is typically families, rather than single people, and that’s always challenging for us to get them accommodated as close to their community as we possibly can, but that’s what we aim to do.”
The report stated that Denbighshire was the highest-performing authority for affordable housing per head in Wales in 2021/22 with a 285 outturn of affordable housing.
The first new-build council dwellings in Denbigh and Prestatyn are expected to be completed by April or May of this year.
Work to convert poor-quality houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) on Bath Street, Rhyl, to self-contained accommodation is also under way.
The committee was also told an HMO additional licence scheme had also been introduced over the last few years.
A homelessness private rented-sector leasing scheme has taken on four properties, and the council is targeting an additional eight for 2023/24, aiming to bring 80 homes across Denbighshire and Conwy into a long-term lease scheme by 2027.
Cllr Andrea Tomlin asked how many rough sleepers there were in Denbighshire.
Ann Lloyd responded: “We have currently got three rough sleepers that are known to us.
“They are people who have got very complex needs and won’t come into services, and it’s not for the lack of trying. We are in daily contact with them. We are working as hard as we can to encourage them to come into services and engage. But for the three who are known to us, they’ve got very specific reasons why they won’t come into services.
“But we know who they are, we know where they are, and we have officers who go out to see them and engage with them on a regular basis.”
She added: “It is a lifestyle choice they are making at this moment in time, and we cannot persuade them to do anything differently.”
Chairing the meeting, Cllr Hugh Irving then asked if people sitting on the county’s streets or outside supermarkets were homeless.
Ann Lloyd responded: “The three people that are known to us, you won’t see them sitting on the streets, but the people sitting on the streets are not technically homeless, and we do engage with them if we see them sitting on the streets to make sure they are not rough sleeping.”
Cllr Gareth Sandilands then said the council needed to make the matter a top priority and questioned why Denbighshire couldn’t build new council homes more quickly.
“I see the private sector building houses within 18 months to two years from planning right the way through to people moving in,” he said.
Denbighshire’s head of communities, Liz Grieve, said the council’s housing development plan had concentrated initially on a number of sites that were more problematic.
“I think, it is fair to say, that the council’s housing development plan probably started with some of the hardest sites in terms of making the space to be able to build and clearing up of the sites,” she said.
She also said COVID had slowed the progress of the housing plan.
Housing officer Ann Lloyd then said she wanted to see homelessness reduced by 15% year on year.
The matter and a progress report are due to be discussed again in another six months.