Homeless hub to be created in Leigh town centre under action plan

A homeless hub will be established in Leigh town centre as part of an action plan to tackle the issue.

The initiative has moved a step closer after receiving the backing of a council committee.

The new approach will see hubs established, one in Leigh town centre and another in Wigan, providing emergency accommodation and support services.

Lead officers say it will provide a major boost to efforts to prevent people from becoming homeless and helping those who already have to find sustainable housing.

Members of the local authority’s health scrutiny committee were this week told the blueprint will ‘complement work undertaken at a Greater Manchester level’ with the region’s mayor Andy Burnham having pledged to end rough sleeping by 2020.

Deputy leader and councillor for Leigh East Keith Cunliffe said it has taken ‘a considerable amount of time to develop’ with workshops and consultation events taking place throughout the past year.

He told the committee: “Some of the things that came out of the workshops were that whilst we were being quite successful in some ways, in others we could do better. The system is a bit fragmented, it was about how we make it more holistic.”

The council will work alongside partner agencies and charities to ‘avoid duplication’ in the system, he added.

Coun Cunliffe, who is the council’s lead member for adult social care, said: “The most important aspect of this is to prevent people from becoming homeless.

“We will think about the many reasons behind homelessness; domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, mental health, and a range of different problems…we need the emergency accommodation but we need to start to address these reasons.”

The council’s increased focus on prevention in recent years has seen the amount of homeless cases averted increase by 59pc in the last four years, according to a report presented to the committee.

And part of the new approach will be to establish links with the private sector and landlords to ‘develop an ethical framework’ to fix problems in the system.

“The consequences of living in the private rented sector is the largest single contributory factor of homelessness in Wigan, with short term tenancies, poor living conditions and some landlords operating unethically, which lead to presentations of people who are potentially homeless,” the report said.

Coun Nathan Murray asked officers how they plan to establish these links with private landlords and highlighted the difficulty they face with this aspect of the approach.

He said: “Big private sector housing associations, you can see them signing up but in comparison how do we get those smaller, more amateur, semi-pro landlords to sign up?”

Vicky Bannister, the council’s assistant director for homes, said work is progressing on a national level for more regulation for the private rental sector.

Responding to Coun Murray, she said: “We need to have a system with something that is attractive so that landlords want to sign up to it, but we need to show them that we are serious and will take enforcement action if necessary – and I don’t underestimate the scale of that challenge.”

Having received unanimous approval from the committee, the new approach will now go before the council’s cabinet.

Both hubs could be up and running in time for the winter, members were told.

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