Homeless people have to call a phoneline for help – or face a long wait for one-to-one support - in a new Sheffield policy.
Sheffield Council has come under fire for asking desperate men and women who turn up at housing offices in the city centre’s Howden House to go away and call the local rate number.
One housing expert, who declined to be named, said the measures had led to advice centres becoming crammed full of homeless people.
He said: “ These people do not have the means to make the telephone call themselves due to capacity issues, communication problems, and lack of a telephone or credit on their mobile.”
Kevin Bradley, director of Sheffield charity St Wilfrid’s Centre for the homeless and socially excluded, said: “People need that face-to-face support.
“It’s not just the practical side – the fact that a lot of homeless people don’t even have a phone – but also the impact on mental health.
“What does saying ‘go away and dial a phone number’ say to someone who is already vulnerable and desperate?
“It makes them think no one cares.”
City leaders said no-one would be refused face-to-face interviews under new measures.
Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes, said: ““People who are presenting as homeless can still have a face-to-face interview.
“What has changed is we’ve recently introduced a single telephone access point for housing advice and options, reducing the need for customers to make a journey into the city centre in order to seek advice.
“By offering access via the telephone, we believe we will be able to provide a better and quicker way for customers to obtain advice and guidance.
“The council uses local rate numbers as this is often cheaper than advertised ‘freephone’ numbers for mobile phone users.”