PLEAS for help to avoid homelessness are on the rise among Rugby residents.
Rugby Borough Council responded to over 200 desperate calls for help in 2015 – almost double the number from five years earlier.
New statistics reveal the council stepped in to help in 203 cases – to either prevent homelessness or support those alredy with nowhere to live.
But Hope 4 chairman Rev Dr Michael Bochenski, who helps run Rugby’s Winter Homeless Shelter, said the numbers came as no surprise.
He said: “At Hope 4 we have seen a steady increase of guests using our Hope Centre, the Rugby Winter Shelter, our evening food ministry and the Rugby Food Bank, which we oversee, over the course of 2015.
“The grim reality is that in ‘Austerity Britain’ significantly more people are at risk of losing their homes and becoming homeless.
“The overall demand this winter at our seven local church venues is already larger than ever before, and it is still only December.”
The Rugby Winter Shelter was supposed to be a temporary operation – but is now about to face its fifth-straight winter helping people in desperate need. Last year the shelter faced its busiest Christmas ever and is expecting another busy winter.
Dr Bochenski added: “Relationship breakdown, unemployment and benefit sanctions or delays are all significant contributory factors to local homelessness in our experience. The problem is compounded by the limited availability of affordable social housing, and not just in Rugby of course.
“For the record, Rugby Borough Council already has one of the more ambitious house building programmes in the West Midlands. But it is still not enough for the scale of the growing problem as the statistics demonstrate.”
Borough council spokesperson Coun Leigh Hunt said the authority was taking steps to support those at risk of homelessness.
She told The Observer: “The council has made homelessness a key priority and works with a number of partners, including those on the Rugby Homelessness Forum, to deliver support to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
“We have taken a proactive approach to helping residents at risk of homelessness, launching a number of initiatives to offer residents the necessary support and advice to remain in a property, be it council-owned or private.
“We are launching a new service, the Private Sector Leasing Scheme, where the council leases properties from landlords to house those in need. The scheme will increase the housing options available in the borough and offer further support to those in housing need.”
MP Mark Pawsey said the government was actively looking to tackle the problems faced by rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness.
He said: “Over £500 million of funding has been made available by the Government. It is imperative that we continue with this work and do all we can to tackle homelessness and that is why charities such as Hope 4 here in Rugby do such important, and vital, work.”