COUNCIL bosses have made a New Year’s resolution to tackle homelessness – with the figure doubling in Bracknell and Wokingham in the past three years.
The number of homeless families classed as being in “priority need” in Bracknell Forest has risen from 29 in 2010-11 to 64 this year, according to figures revealed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
However, Cllr Dale Birch, executive member for adult services, health and housing at Bracknell Forest Council, believes things are improving after the number dropped from a high of 75 last year.
He said: “The steps moving forward are to maintain what we have always done in dealing with homelessness in a very effective way.
“We have taken steps over the past few years to have temporary accommodation available in the borough, and more recently we have had bed and breakfast for people.
“We also try to be as proactive as we can. At Bracknell Forest Council we have a range of things in place to work not only with homeless but with people becoming homeless. When people receive letters saying ‘you have to get out’, we have people who work with them up to an beyond the day they become officially homeless.
“Over the years we have helped a lot of people who have not become homeless but those numbers are not shown and we don’t publish them.” Cllr Birch added the general increase in homelessness was partially down to the economy and changes to benefits and he hoped things will change in 2014.
Pat Hallett, from Bracknell Foodbank, said the increase in homelessness was inevitable.
She said: “We know the costs of fuel and energy are rising and people are finding it hard to manage.” Bridgett House, 42, and her eight-year-old daughter Tori Cooper, have been ‘sofa-surfing’ since July last year. She is currently based in Easthampstead but said more needs to be done for people struggling for accommodation.
Ms House said: “It’s so unfair on Tori; she knows we might have to go out of the area [to get permanent accommodation].
“She would love to live here – her friends are all at school.
“She just wants her own room and it’s just not fair on her.” The statistics for the number of homeless households classed as in priority need relate to the financial year ending in March 2013 – and show there were 17 in Wokingham borough, compared with eight in 2010-11, while in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, there was a rise from 23 to 64.
Cllr Julian Mcghee-Sumner, executive member for health and wellbeing at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We have put together a homeless strategy and we are sharing ideas with neighbouring authorities including Bracknell and Reading to try to cover all options.
“We want to eliminate home- lessness altogether and have more temporary accommodation than we have had before.
“We’re working with our community wardens to help people but we have three or four people who don’t want to be helped.
“We try to signpost them to other people who can help.”