Homelessness ‘significantly increased’ amid cost of living crisis, says Harrogate council official
Feb 2, 2023

Housing officials at Harrogate Borough Council say the number of people presenting as homeless has “significantly increased” amid the covid pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Maggie Gibson, housing needs manager at the authority, told a council overview and scrutiny commission that officers had seen a large amount of people who were in a “higher level of financial difficulty”.

It comes as the housing department has forecast an overspend of £170,000 due to an increase use of bed and breakfast accommodation amid a lack of temporary homes.

Ms Gibson said the council had started to see more people citing financial difficulties as their primary reason for approaching the service.

She said:

“As a backlash of the pandemic, what we are seeing is people who are in a higher level of financial difficulty.

“So whereas we may have experienced problems with affordability, we have a larger amount of people coming forward with that being their primary issue as to why they are approaching our service.

“What we also have is parents who have older children who are now living in their households, they have been struck by the additional costs associated with gas and electric. They want a contribution and maybe those older children don’t want to contribute.

“Therefore, we have those people now approaching our service.”

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The comments come as the Stray Ferret revealed last month that the council had spent £25,000 a month on temporary hotels and bed and breakfasts for homeless people.

The council, which has a statutory duty to prevent homelessness, is paying individual hotels up to £126 a night because its hostels are full.

Ms Gibson said housing officers were now seeing a “different picture” of homelessness due to the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

She said:

“I think it’s a very different picture that we are looking at. Whereas we might have been looking at affordability on it’s own, we have now got affordability coupled with health issues – both mental and physical – which have an impact on where the person is next accommodated.

“If our temporary accommodation is not available and we are using bed and breakfast accommodation – and that will be in extreme situations – it may well be that we are waiting then with a person in bed and breakfast until a vacancy becomes available again in the hostel.”