INCREASING levels of homelessness in Barnsley will be tackled head on thanks to a new strategy which is aiming to intervene before people find themselves on the streets.

Barnsley Council launched its homeless prevention and rough sleeping strategy on Wednesday, which sets out a collaborative approach to dealing with the issue over the next five years.

In Barnsley last year 1,548 people - including individuals, couples and families - approached the council for advice and support in finding or keeping their accommodation. Of those, 677 people were assisted by the local authority to prevent them becoming homeless.

A new Homeless Alliance has been established and as part of the strategy will work together to prevent homelessness by providing more help to people at risk earlier, work more closely with the most vulnerable groups and reduce the use of temporary accommodation and instead use local housing options available.

Coun Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesperson for communities, said: “We have made positive progress over the last five years in supporting those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, but we know more needs to be done.

“This strategy sets out our approach for tackling homelessness in the borough. Our primary focus is to prevent it from happening in the first place and helping those who are homeless to build a better future.

“Our vision is to work in partnership to end homelessness in Barnsley.

“It is crucial in such times where budgets are reducing, and demand for specialist services are increasing, that we work together and pool our resources to ensure people in our communities get the right support, at the right time.

“No single organisation can solve homelessness alone - we must all proactively work together to intervene earlier and prevent it happening.”

The Homeless Alliance is encouraging alternative ways of giving support to those who find themselves homeless and begging, such as donations to charities and services; speaking to the people and encouraging them to access support services; giving food or a drink rather than money and buying a copy of the Big Issue as they are sold by vendors who are working rather than begging.

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central and the Mayor of Sheffield City Region, added: “We must all take collective responsibility for providing practical support to those who find themselves sleeping rough or begging on the streets.

“Volunteering time, donating goods or simply stopping to make sure someone knows about the help available in Barnsley will make a real difference.

“As Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, I am committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping across our region. It is estimated that around 4,750 people sleep rough every day in Britain.

“The fact that anyone in the 21st century has to sleep rough is an absolute disgrace. That is why next month I will be hosting a city region summit on homelessness to create an action plan to eradicate homelessness in South Yorkshire.”

According to a council report, there has been a ‘steep rise’ in the demand for temporary accommodation, and that it is becoming ‘more challenging’ to successfully prevent them from ending up on the streets.

The largest group of homeless people, the report says, is single men between 25 and 44 who often have complex needs, although the number of families requiring assistance is also on the up.

Charity Centrepoint, which set up in Barnsley last year to help young people in particular who are at risk of homelessness, welcomed the council’s commitment to tackling the issue.

Tyler Moore, regional manager for Centrepoint, said: “Many of the young people who we work with in Barnsley are at the point of feeling written off by society - they face a number of barriers to employment and housing and are simply struggling to overcome them.

“We welcome the opportunity to be involved in a collaborative and collective approach to tackling and hopefully eradicating the fundamental causes of homelessness and rough sleeping across the district.”

Top 5