Homelessness soars in Islington

The number of homeless people has risen by two thirds.

Figures obtained by the Gazette show the council registered 333 people as homeless between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, compared to 200 in the previous financial period – a 67 per cent rise.

Council officers say the number of rough sleepers on the streets remains low and the applicants include single parents, asylum seekers, residents with drug or alcohol problems and families being evicted after difficulty with mortgage payments.

Those applying need to go through a detailed process before they can be officially judged as having nowhere to live and receive help finding a permanent place from Islington Council.

A staggering 1,262 applied to the authority to be classified as being without accommodation between April 1 2010 and March 31 2011 with 333 successful. Only 415 applications were made in the preceding 12 months.

Impossible

Savvas Panas, chief executive of the Pilion Trust homeless charity, based in Horsell Road, Holloway, said: “Cuts to specialist support such as detox services and mental health have had a big impact.

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“It has become impossible for any serious dependent to access any type of treatment or help quickly and housing providers don’t want them.

“Another factor has been a change on policies on housing benefits.

“We have had people apply unsuccessfully three times for benefits in 12 months or those whose benefits have been stopped and they get evicted becoming homeless because they can’t pay the rent.”

One project for homeless people in Islington is run every Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning at St Stephen’s Church in Canonbury Road, Canonbury, where they get a hot meal and support.

Nikki Groarke, vicar of the church, said: “The numbers are always constant. It is a never-ending stream. We have had a lot more Eastern Europeans in the past year who have come for work but not found it.”

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing, said: “We are seeing this rise in people asking the council for help even before the full effects of the Government’s housing benefit caps come into force in January.”

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