Market Harborough homelessness on the rise

New figures have revealed homelessness in a Leicestershire market town has almost tripled in three years.

Council statistics show 56 people in the affluent town of Market Harborough were classed as homeless last year, compared with 18 three years ago.

There has also been an increase in people being housed in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.

Harborough District Council says it is taking a "proactive preventative approach" to tackle homelessness.

'Anywhere at any time'

The figures were revealed as the council presented its draft plan to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in the town over the next five years.

The report said: "The overall state of the local housing market makes it increasingly difficult to meet the housing needs of households on lower incomes, vulnerable people and homeless households.

"Prevention of homelessness depends on making effective use of the existing stock, including the private rented sector, as well as increasing the availability of affordable housing provision."

Gareth, 45, who spends most nights sleeping in a disused factory in Market Harborough, said: "People look at you and assume you are a complete drug-head or an alcoholic. I'm not a bad person but no-one wants to touch me."

Some of the key areas the council is focusing on includes working with local organisations, introducing a scheme to help prevent mortgage repossessions and not placing under 16s into temporary accommodation or families for longer than six weeks.

Reverend David Morris, who runs the Community of Grace hostel in Leicester, said people in apparently affluent areas were just as much at risk from homelessness as those from less wealthy areas.

He said residents at his hostel had included a former prosperous business owner, two university lecturers and former armed forces officers.

"It can happen anywhere at any time," he said.

A Harborough District Council spokesman said: "We regularly review our homelessness strategy to look at how we can improve the ways we help people who have found themselves without a roof over their head or are worried they are about to.

"We have relatively few incidents of homelessness in the Harborough district compared with other, more deprived areas, but are committed, particularly in the current difficult economic climate, to ensuring those who are worried about becoming homeless are given the best support possible."

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