The number of households that North East councils prevented from becoming homeless has rocketed in parts of the region.
In South Tyneside the local authority stepped in on 3,208 occasions in the last 12 months, a 123% rise on the 1,437 figure for the previous year.
This works out at a rate of 47.07 per 1,000 households in the borough, almost five times the national average of 10.11.
Meanwhile, in the same period, Gateshead saw a 65% increase from 2,094 to 3,453, an average of 38.28 per 1,000 households.
Newcastle City Council numbers rose 23% from 3,673 to 4,529, which works at 37.89 per 1,000 households.
There was also a small rise in Northumberland and Durham, but falls in North Tyneside and Sunderland.
Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show preventions and relief in England rose nationally on average 12% from 202,900 to 227,800 between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Prevention includes things like resolving problems with housing benefit, advice on debt or rent and mortgage arrears, or mediating with families to stop family members being kicked out.
Relief is when a council has been unable to prevent homelessness but helps someone to secure accommodation, even though the local authority is under no statutory obligation to do so.
Coun Allan West, Lead Member for Housing and Transport on South Tyneside Council, said the figure revealed how a policy initiative it took last year was working.
He said: “In 2013, South Tyneside Council’s Place Committee undertook a Commission scrutinising how homelessness in the Borough was tackled and how well the Council was equipped to deal with future demand.
“This led to the development of our new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities.
“This is reflected in our updated allocations policy, which gives priority to people at risk of becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.
“We have introduced a Homelessness Forum with representation from key partners including landlords, Public Health and the third sector.
“The forum ensures a collaborative partnership approach to tackling homelessness, sharing good practice and maximising opportunities for early intervention and prevention for homeless households.
“The review established a post of ‘Homelessness Prevention Lead’ within the Council to continue to develop housing and support options for people at risk of homelessness.”
My life on the streets of Tyneside – by homeless man ‘Carl’
Graduate ‘Carl’ has been homeless, on and off, for 16 years now.
He came to the region from Berkshire to study politics and economics at Newcastle University.
By the time he graduated aged 23 with a 2:1, he was in a secure unit at St Nicholas’ Hospital where he was being treated for Bipolar Disorder.
“They let me out for the day for my graduation ceremony and that night when the other students were out having a drink celebrating I was back in the unit pumped up with drugs,” he said.
He describes himself as a ‘hand tapper’, someone who walks the streets asking for money, making anywhere between £25 and £100 a day.
“The beggars are the ones who put signs around their necks and wait for people to come to them,” he said.
Carl said at the moment he sleeps rough in a city centre car park. “It’s best to sleep somewhere with CCTV as it gives you a feeling of security that someone might see if you’re in trouble and help.”
Over the years he has ‘sofa surfed’ with friends, and stayed in hostels, but nowhere permanent for long.
The money he makes he spends on food, tobacco and drink.
“I don’t drink that much,” he says.
He was a heroin user for six to eight years but has been ‘clean’ since June.
Carl is currently taking heroin-substitute buprenorphine, its trade name is Subutex.
“It’s better than methadone, like Peaches Geldof was taking. You can take other drugs as well as Methadone but not with Subutex.
“You’re supposed to crush it and place it under your tongue. I crush it and snort it like snuff.”
However he added: “I’ll probably have a relapse soon.”
His condition means he’s hyperactive.
“I walk the streets all day. Sometimes I don’t sleep.
“It’s OK at the moment with the hot weather. When its cold you keep moving or you die of hypothermia.
“People in the North east are friendlier than down south so I don’t get much grief.”
He says he stays in touch with family down south. His father is the Governor at a primary school, his three sisters and brothers hold down full time jobs.
“Some of us are just different. I’ve had a few jobs but I’m just not reliable.
“Also, my specialism is international politics and economics. I can’t see many employers in that field offering me a job.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 July 2014