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The council is providing homes for more than 200 homeless people who have been living in city hotels since the coronavirus crisis began.

At the start of lockdown the government issued an instruction to ‘keep every rough sleeper in’, and local homeless people were accommodated in hotels.

The council is now enabling them to move on from this emergency accommodation to better housing.

This builds on plans agreed by the council’s Cabinet in July, after discussion with the government; the city’s cross-party, multi-agency Rough Sleeper Partnership Board; and teams working with the homeless people.

It also follows the government’s announcement earlier this year of £105m to help councils across England house rough sleepers until next March.

The council has so far helped about 40 people find their own private rented housing, and will continue to help others who are willing and ready to make such a move.

The council has also worked with landlords to accommodate more than 60 people in shared houses so far.

The council has also leased unused accommodation blocks in St Michael’s Road and Elm Grove to house up to 110 homeless people who have been using the emergency hotel provision.

The blocks will be used while the council looks for more permanent accommodation. Services will be provided to help the residents make long-term changes to their lives.

They will have their own rooms and access to live-in support from homelessness charities Society of St James and Two Saints. There will be access to specialist help for those with substance misuse issues and support to help people move towards work or education and long-term accommodation.

A handful of people will also return to the council’s former night shelters, which have been adapted to meet Covid-19 safety requirements.

In taking these next steps, the council will draw on experience gained in running previous services for homeless people.

The council’s focus will be on helping rough sleepers with a local connection and providing enough accommodation to help Portsmouth people who may be forced to sleep on the streets in coming months.

The council and government have been working on this plan over the last few months and funding levels will be confirmed next month.

Cllr Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness, said: “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tackle rough sleeping properly. Every rough sleeper is a human being, not a statistic, and these ambitious plans come after listening to and assessing every person we are housing.

“This package enables us to offer secure, safe accommodation to those who want it while we work with partners on plans we want to last for years. It is clear from listening to rough sleepers that they want support, not just a place to live, and that is what we will offer. The package also means we can continue to provide council homes for those we have a legal duty to house and the many on our waiting list.

“We would like to thank everybody involved in providing a safe space for rough sleepers during the coronavirus pandemic.”

People will be moved from emergency hotel accommodation and into support blocks by the end of September.

The council has outreach services who find rough sleepers and offer them support. But if residents are concerned about someone they think is sleeping rough, they should go to www.streetlink.org.uk and log the details so local agencies can try to connect the person with help available.

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