Cornwall is facing an accommodation “crisis” after it was revealed that about 130 people homeless people were asked to move out of hotels to make way for paying customers.
Lee Trewhela www.cornwalllive.com
The promise of a busy summer season, next week’s G7 Summit, a packed Bank Holiday weekend and half-term have all meant that hotel and B&B owners who have provided temporary and emergency accommodation for homeless people and families want to return to welcoming paying guests.
Olly Monk, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for housing, told CornwallLive the situation was a “crisis” and the council needed to come up with solutions as quickly as possible.
He said: “Last week about 130 people left temporary and emergency accommodation that the council provides at hotel chains and B&Bs for the reason that people wanted to get back to the business of providing hotel accommodation for regular, paying guests.
“The good weather, the bank holiday and the end of lockdown on June 21, hopefully, has meant those businesses want to get back on a regular footing of providing regular accommodation.”
The Conservative councillor for Newquay Trenance said the council didn’t have any long-term contracts in place with hoteliers so the businesses had the flexibility to terminate the contracts.
“Cornwall Housing managed to rehouse pretty much all of them,” added the councillor. “A lot of them moved in with family or friends, some were rehoused in Plymouth.
“A very small number of people, discretionary claimants, who were housed in Cornwall during Covid who couldn’t get back to where they came from during the pandemic have been offered accommodation elsewhere.”
Mr Monk said he had not heard any reports of anyone being made homeless as a result of the move.
“This is a crisis and we need to come up with some innovative solutions to it very quickly,” he stressed. “Moving forward, the people we are homing in temporary and emergency accommodation are going to come under more pressure as the holiday season progresses and as landlords cash in on the AirB&B side of things.
“Long-term our administration is looking at providing more council housing and open market rented properties for the people of Cornwall. But right now we’ve got a problem with a lot of people in temporary accommodation that we need to house and provide that provision until we start building the council housing that people need.
“This is why I wanted the housing job, it’s something I feel passionate about – it’s a problem in Cornwall and I want to do my best to help.”
Another Cornwall councillor hopes that a legacy from the G7 will provide more accommodation for homeless people.
Jayne Kirkham, Labour councillor for Falmouth Penwerris, said: “The G7 and the encroaching holiday season has flagged up a real weakness in homelessness and housing provision in Cornwall.
“Trying to rehouse so many people at short notice in Cornwall in the summer with the place full due to the G7 is incredibly difficult and expensive. The worry is that some people will slip through the net and end up back on the streets. All the good work done engaging with the support services will be lost and they will go backwards.”
Cornwall Housing installed homeless ‘pods’ in Truro and Penzance last year and are planning a new homeless centre in Truro with 11 rooms. They also received money from the Next Steps Accommodation Fund to purchase accommodation and fund support workers.
Ms Kirkham added: “They have done a huge lot of work in the last year in trying to get ‘everybody in’. Despite the rough sleeper count in November 2019 showing there were only 24 people rough sleeping in Cornwall, 168 people were given emergency accommodation in the first few months of the pandemic.
“However, there is always more that could be done and the G7 and our summer holiday season have highlighted the current fragility of emergency housing provision in Cornwall. Particularly the part that is commissioned with national hotel chains and is incredibly expensive and hard to find at certain times of the year, due to our seasonal economy.
“Much is spoken of the ‘legacy’ the G7 may provide to Cornwall. I would suggest that the Government consider that the G7 has proven that we need extra support with our homelessness provision.
“I went up to Falmouth Rugby Club last night where there are 40 ‘pods’ for security staff to occupy during G7. These buildings were rented, but there will be similar across the Duchy. Maybe if some of these housing pods could stay in Cornwall after the G7 moves on, along with some extra funding for more permanent accommodation, it would go some way to help plug a gaping hole.
“We obviously need more reliable options than renewing room bookings at national hotel chains.”