With Christmas almost upon us, many will be looking forward to celebrating with close friends and loved ones, yet with the shadow of the pandemic looming over us souring what should be a time of large family gatherings.
But, for some, Christmas can bring not happiness but stress, worry, loneliness, sadness and even fear.
Many people this year, more so than any previous one, are facing this Christmas with housing worries.
My first political campaign as a young Liberal some 30 years ago was on street homelessness. I find it incredible that in the last 30 years homelessness has got worse.
Being homeless is not just about those sleeping on the streets.
The ‘hidden homeless’ may be those households living in temporary accommodation, sleeping on a friend’s sofa or having to share a home with extended family because they have no place to call their own.
Since the pandemic struck, our day-to-day lives have changed significantly and with that have also come many challenges.
Torbay’s homeless population has significantly increased with families and individuals both young and old being forced to leave their homes through no fault of their own.
It can happen to anyone.
The three main underlying reasons for homelessness in Torbay are financial difficulties, relationship break-ups and domestic abuse.
All of these can be attributed to or have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
We offer a number of support services to assist residents in urgent need.
For anyone affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence our Are you OK? website offers a full directory of services and advice on where to go and what to do if you are experiencing, or know someone who is experiencing, domestic abuse or sexual violence and details of refuge centres and hostels in cases where emergency accommodation is needed.
Earlier in the year we provided funding to assist the YMCA’s Night Stop programme, an initiative which trains volunteers who have spare rooms in their homes to offer emergency accommodation to young people between the ages of 16 and 25.
Last year, the scheme supported 133 young people in finding emergency accommodation and a safe place off the streets, while further help or move-on accommodation was sorted.
The Household Support Fund is another way residents who are struggling financially, may be able to get assistance with heating costs, food and wider essentials over the winter period.
The funding can also be used in some cases towards rental arrears and deposits.
Demand for support from the fund has been high, and our teams are working hard to process applications as quickly as possible, so please bear with us if you have applied and are waiting to hear back.
Anyone who finds themselves with nowhere to stay and is in urgent need can contact our Housing Options team who will be able to assist you.
But the most important thing is to talk to us as soon as you think you may lose your home.
The earlier you talk to someone the more we can do to help you.
There are also those who we know are street homeless and we will also do everything we can to help them.
Our dedicated outreach team walk the streets of our three towns, making contact with any rough sleepers, to coordinate appropriate help and support.
At this time of year, we are acutely aware that weather conditions could provide further difficulties for those sleeping on our streets.
Our severe weather emergency protocol is activated, and additional accommodation and provisions are put in place to ensure the safety and care of rough sleepers during this time.
If you have any concerns about anyone you see sleeping rough, you can contact our resettlement team by emailing email@example.com or call 0300 456 4876, outside normal office hours.
If you think someone is danger, then please call the emergency services.
Torbay Weekly Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.