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Housing and homelessness in focus

20 March 2023

This week we’re shining a light on the housing crisis facing the UK and what we and our partners are doing to help tackle it here in Plymouth.

We'll be publishing blogs each day on a different aspect of the issue.

How you can help

Ways that residents can get involved in helping homelessness in our city

We often get asked what we residents can do to help people who are homeless.

The answer is lots. Here’s a few schemes that you can get involved in:

One of the key issues with the housing crisis is the demand for homes outstrips the supply. As you saw from our post yesterday, we’re doing all we can to address this, but if you’ve got a spare room, you can earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free through the government’s Rent a Room Scheme. Find out more about the scheme here.

Not got a spare room but got time to spare instead?

Then you can get involved with a number of local charities who help rough sleepers.

Our Plymouth Alliance partners Shekinah – – are always looking for volunteers.

You can also volunteer with the Plymouth Soup Run

If time is not something you have but you would like to give cash that will benefit local organisations, you can do so via contactless tap-to-give devices around the city which allow you to donate £2 to support Shekinah, PATH and the Plymouth Soup Run.

More information can be found here.

The Plan for Homes

How we are tackling the housing crisis
An image of Councillor Rebecca Smith holding a plan with Fred Benneton of Classic Buildings on site at Broadland Gardens

This week we’ve been putting the spotlight on homelessness and the work we do with people who are, or are at risk of, homelessness.

Today, we’re looking at the work that we do to address one of the root causes of homelessness in the UK – the shortage of housing.

While the Council no longer runs or manages social housing stock, we do work with housing developers and 11 social landlords to explore opportunities to build homes wherever possible.

All of this work forms part of our Plan for Homes, a rolling plan that supports a variety of new and affordable housing while improving poor housing conditions.

There are a number of things we do to facilitate this, chiefly by making surplus council land available and providing the expertise and sometimes the finances to make previous unviable scheme possible.

There have been many successes in the last few years alone.

Between 2014 and 2022, 7,717 new homes were delivered as part of the Plan for Homes and there are a further 3,000 homes in the pipeline to be delivered within the next 5 to 10 years, of which 60 per cent will be affordable. During the same time period, 385 empty homes have been brought back into use.

Partnership work behind the scenes is also crucial. That’s why we have brokered formal agreements with local housing associations Plymouth Community Homes and LiveWest where  £2.25m  has been committed to funding over 750 new homes for affordable rent.

As part of the plan, we also help to recycle land in Plymouth and make it easier for developers to build. Just recently we worked with PCH to do this at two sites in Southway.

But it’s not just about building new homes – it’s about regeneration and bringing empty homes back into use. Just this month, we have celebrated supporting housing group Clarion with the redevelopment of Barne Barton and re-launched two schemes to encourage landlords to turn their empty houses back into homes.

We also look to support with the provision of housing for specialist groups, most notably recently when the Stirling Project, a veterans self-build project in Honicknowle completed its first phase and in 2021, a residential home for adults with learning disabilities was completed in How Street.

Could we do more? Absolutely, but we are facing a tough economic climate which is why in recent years, the delivery numbers have stalled. The good news is that the future is brighter and the pipeline is beginning to fill.

There is no magic wand. If there was, we’d wave it, but we will continue to do all we can to improve housing here in Plymouth for the long term.

More information on the Plan for Homes and our recent successes can be found here:


What we do to help people and how homelessness and rough sleeping are different issues
An infographic that reads: 25 Community Connections officers, 967 households being supported with homelessness, 106 households helped to find a new home in the last month

This week, we're running a series of features about homelessness and how we support affected households while focussing on the causes.

Yesterday, we put the focus on rough sleeping but today, we're looking at homelessness more generally.

What's the difference? Well, as explained yesterday, rough sleepers account for a very small minority of homeless households. Although the numbers fluctuate, in February there was an average of nine rough sleepers in Plymouth.

Yes, that's nine too many, but in comparison, there are currently 967 households who we are helping with their homelessness.

Are all these people on the streets? No. Are they without somewhere permanent to call home? Yes, with more than 350 households currently in temporary accommodation.

Unfortunately, the last two years have been really busy for our teams.

The pandemic and associated factors like relationship breakdown, impact on physical and mental health, the end of furlough, business and job loss, increased utility costs, the end of the temporary ban on evictions and increased private sector rent costs have all contributed to an increase in people presenting to us for help and support.

More and more we see working families come to us, unable to find somewhere to live.

As a Council, our door is always open to give housing advice. The earlier we can give help and advice to people who are risk of homelessness, the better.

Our officers can provide advice to inform people of their legal rights to prevent people from becoming homeless. They also support people who are threatened with homelessness by mediating with landlords or by supporting them to find alternative accommodation.

Every case is different; sometimes we are signposting to other services for debt advice or for maximising benefit entitlements. Other times it includes we are advising people on affordability, linking them in with mental health support or arranging foodbank vouchers.

Whatever the issue, though, the focus is always on guiding people to source a long-term sustainable housing solution for themselves.

When homelessness is unavoidable, we may be able to help to provide temporary accommodation.

Often families choose to stay with relatives because it enables them to be closer to their support network. We recognise that either option is a decision that we wish people did not have to make. We know how difficult this is and we continue to work closely with families to support them to move on to a permanent home.

We also have a Devon Home Choice team that can support homeless households to register with Devon Home Choice. They will be placed within five bands from A to E; A being the highest priority, D being lower priority and those in Band E not in housing need.

The criteria for which band people are placed in is based upon need and current circumstance although a variety of other factors can denote which band an applicant is placed in.

There are really long waiting lists for Devon Home Choice and so our relationships with private landlords are really important to our teams. We can help to arrange viewings for households and support to communicate with landlords if they are nervous about renting to a homeless household. We have lots of great incentives to assist people to move into their new home as quickly as possible.

If you are at risk of homelessness, please do get in contact with us. The earlier, the better:

Tomorrow’s blog will look at the work we do behind the scenes to tackle one of the root causes of homelessness in the UK – the shortage of housing.

Rough Sleeping

The Plymouth Alliance and the complex issues that go hand-in-hand with rough sleeping.
Model house on a floor, there's a blurred image of a person in the background

This week we’re shining a light on the housing crisis facing the UK and what we and our partners are doing to help tackle it here in Plymouth.

Clearly the most visible form of homelessness, the thing that most people conjure in their minds when they think of the issue, is rough sleeping.

And while just one person sleeping rough is one person too many, it actually accounts for a small minority of people classed as homeless.

Rough sleeping is a very complex issue. In the vast majority of cases, not having a place to call home is just one of a myriad of issues that has sadly led someone to the streets. Simply speaking, just providing housing isn't the only part of the solution to reducing and ending rough sleeping.

That is why in April 2019 we helped to commission the Plymouth Alliance, a city-wide partnership dedicated to providing the right care for people who are homeless and who may also need support around their mental health, or alcohol and substance use.

The Alliance is made up of seven different organisations: Bournemouth Churches Housing Association, Harbour, Shekinah, the Zone, Plymouth Access To Housing (PATH), Livewell Southwest and Hamoaze, all of whom lend their individual expertise to help people living on the streets.

The results of the Alliance have been palpable. Since its formation, we've seen a reduction in the amount of rough sleepers year on year until 2022, when it increased by just one along with the national trend.

Last year, thanks to the work of the Alliance, over 160 people were supported from the streets into permanent accommodation between April and December.

There is of course a lot more work to do which is why we apply for every single grant or funding opportunity that we can to help do more in Plymouth.

For example, a recent grant has allowed us to invest in yet more emergency accommodation which has already led to a significant reduction of rough sleepers in January and February.

We often get asked how residents can help individuals sleeping rough.

The first thing to do is tell us. If you're out and about and you see someone who you are concerned about, you can report it to us via StreetLink - This will be passed onto to the PATH Rough Sleeper Team. They follow up on all rough sleepers reported to them through Street Link.

If you would like to give financially, there are contactless tap-to-give devices around the city which allow you to donate £2 to support Shekinah, PATH and the Plymouth Soup Run.

More information can be found here.