Council pledges to be homeless friendly

Oldham's town hall has vowed to become officially ‘homeless friendly’ to make it easier for people sleeping rough and living in temporary accommodation to access its services.

Cabinet members unanimously agreed to make the pledge, which would see them try to ‘meet the needs’ of homeless people in the borough.

More than 20 people were found to be sleeping rough on the streets in the latest headcount in September, bosses revealed.

The move was prompted by a representative of charity Homeless Friendly who had approached the council and asked it to engage with their campaign.

Homeless Friendly was founded in 2017 as part of not-for-profit social enterprise Beacon GP Care.

The charity asks that services ‘examine the way they conduct their business’, and pledge to make them accessible to homeless people.

Their aim is to promote a cultural shift in how homeless people are viewed and treated.

‘At least’ three GP surgeries in Oldham have already signed the Homeless Friendly pledges, and are putting the ethos into practice by committing to register homeless patients without a fixed address, and offering flexible appointments.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting (Monday, November 18) portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Hannah Roberts (pictured), said they are pledging to make sure their policies are homeless friendly and that they ‘speak to homeless people with understanding and compassion’.

“I hope that by agreeing to this pledge we will provide reassurance to homeless people that they are able to access advice and support in a non-judgemental and understanding environment,” she said.

“It’s a matter of deep regret that we continue to see rising numbers of homeless people both in terms of people sleeping rough on our streets, and at the last count which took place in September this year we counted 23 people rough sleeping, 20 men and three women.

“And we also have increasing numbers of people presenting to our housing options service and living in temporary accommodation while they are waiting for a home.”

It was recently revealed there are currently 146 families in ‘crisis’ living in temporary accommodation in the borough.

Coun Roberts said they needed a change in national housing policy to meet the needs of Oldham residents, including ‘providing homes at rent people can afford and are of good quality and are good for the environment’.

Cabinet member for neighbourhood services, Coun Ateeque Ur-Rehman added: “I welcome this and I think as leaders of the borough it is our duty.

“I think it beggars belief that in this day and age we are having to deal with homelessness in our society.”

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