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Havering housing chief ‘wrong on homelessness’, says charity

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 January 2014

The Hope for Havering Night Shelter at The Church Of The Good Shepherd - volunteer Niamh Bhalla talks with some of the guests

The Hope for Havering Night Shelter at The Church Of The Good Shepherd - volunteer Niamh Bhalla talks with some of the guests

Archant

A homeless charity has accused Havering Council’s housing chief of underestimating the true scale of the problem.

Hope4Havering has served homeless and vulnerable people since October 2011 by providing both accommodation and support.

Each day it is able to house 15 people in its night shelters.

The guests eat at Jubilee House, a church in Main Road, Romford, and then are taken to a different church hall to sleep each night.

A team of four to six volunteers supervise them through the evening and two volunteers sleep overnight with the guests.

It also has four properties which currently house 13 people in supported living. Three full-time staff support those in the houses.

It raises funds through its charity shop in North Street, Romford, as well as by donations from individuals, community groups and churches.

Cllr Lesley Kelly, cabinet member for housing, says many of the people who Hope4Havering (H4H) deal with are not strictly homeless, following a visit to the charity.

She said they are young runaways who do not want to go home or are people from outside Havering, and that only “one or two” are habitual rough sleepers.

H4H insists that 72 per cent of its guests are from the borough and 74pc are older than 25.

Labour’s Cllr Paul McGeary said: “It would appear that the homeless figures given by Cllr Kelly do not reflect the true story in Havering and the situation is worse than stated.”

Kim Merry, H4H chief executive, said that the research performed by the council was of just 10 people out of 360 they have helped in two years and is not representative of the real situation.

Mrs Merry added: “Cllr Kelly visited the project once. It’s like me going to one council meeting saying all they talk about is trains as it’s the one meeting they are discussing trains.”

Cllr Kelly told the Recorder: “We do not want any of our residents sleeping rough and that’s why we work with London Outreach’s Street Rescue team whenever a rough sleeper is identified. There are very few people in the borough who do sleep rough, usually just one or two.”

She added: “We appreciate the goodwill and compassion offered by H4H and did some work with them to look into the backgrounds of the people they work with.

“We found not all of them were homeless, for example, some were young people who wanted to leave home, and others did not want to be helped.”

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