Homeless 'gravitating' to Taunton, says charity

The number of people sleeping rough in Taunton more than doubled in 2011, according to a government report.

There are now 25 rough sleepers in the Somerset town and one charity said it was because more were "gravitating" there for better access to services.

The Taunton Association for the Homeless (TAH) said provision in Somerset was "very patchy" with another hostel in Yeovil.

The rise has also been blamed on high house prices, rent and low wages.

'Family arguments'

John Shipley, TAH's director, said: "If you're homeless you'll want to be somewhere where you're going to get the support you need, and where you'll have a decent chance of getting some accommodation.

"But it is only part of the picture, and a lot of it is simply due to the recession.

"What we're seeing is increased pressure on families, more arguments within families which means young people end up leaving home or more relationships break down with more husbands and wives approaching us for more housing."

The Rough Sleeping England 2011 Reporthas also shown that the Taunton Deane area, which had 12 rough sleepers in 2010, now has the highest number of rough sleepers in the West Country, compared to four people in Bath and North East Somerset, and eight in Bristol.

A spokesman for Taunton Deane Borough Council said: "We are working very closely with agencies such as Taunton Association for the Homeless and Open Door to try to reduce the numbers as far as possible.

"The initiatives also aim to provide support and training. The council can help people who are homeless through providing emergency accommodation."

TAH is also going to provide outreach services in the next two months, where teams visit rough sleepers as they bed down for the night.

Mr Shipley said: "They will visit in the evening, so what you do is build a relationship with them and then you start to do assessments of what they will need in order to enable them to come inside."

The charity hopes that by picking people up early, it will help reduce rough sleeping and prevent future problems like drug and alcohol abuse.

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