New 'prefab' housing planned for homeless in Rotherham

Homeless: Rotherham Council has prefabs plan to help those with no home.
Homeless: Rotherham Council has prefabs plan to help those with no home.
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A modern version of ‘prefab’ housing could be constructed by Rotherham Council to provide stopgap accommodation for the homeless as staff prepare for a surge in numbers seeking help which are predicted to rise by at least half.

Changes in legislation mean other bodies which deal with those facing homelessness will have to refer them to local authorities in future and in Rotherham, council staff believe that will see an increase of at least 50 per cent on current rates, with the possibility of numbers doubling.

The Government’s new Universal Credit system, which replaces existing state benefits, is also expected to have an impact on figures, though council officials say that until new guidelines are published at some point in the Spring, it is impossible to provide accurate estimates.

However, Rotherham’s homelessness team has already revamped the way it is structured to help prepare.

Their computer systems have been modernised to allow data on their performance to be recorded, councillors will be told, and: “The homelessness team will continue to be pro-active in addressing homelessness, seeking to work effectively with other services within the Council and our partners to make the best use of our resources.”

The council won a grant of £319,000 from the Government last year to help with its work on homelessness and over the next two years will see another £480,000 come in from the same source.

But after 2020 there is much less certainty about how much funding will be available to help deal with the homeless and the council is already looking for “innovative” solutions.

A new report tells councillors: “The council is currently considering the cost and feasibility of setting up a small pilot of modular construction method, allowing additional accommodation units for homeless households to be built on unused land.

“The intention is for the units to be used to house homeless single people waiting to find a permanent residence, either with the council, housing association or private rented accommodation.

“This accommodation will also be available for rough sleepers.”

Modular buildings are preformed units, which are the equivalent of the old prefabs, which were built as a temporary measure after World War Two to help with the nation’s housing crisis.

Another £100,000 could be set aside over the next three years by Rotherham’s furniture scheme, to help homeless households and young people with the cost of furniture when they are setting up homes.

The grant cash already allocated to Rotherham will be used to help prevent those threatened with homelessness from actually losing their homes, and to pay for services including new staff.

Money will also go into a rough sleeper fund, which works with those who have been living on the streets for some time as well as those at risk of getting into a rough-sleeping lifestyle.

Work will also be funded to help domestic abuse victims who otherwise would be unable to get accommodation in a refuge, such as women with pets.

One property has already been set up for that, with another expected to come into use later this year.