Cllr Colin Kemp
At last week’s meeting of Full Council, I asked a question about homelessness in Woking. The question was prompted by a number of representations from residents who have highlighted the increase in rough sleepers underneath the canopy on Albion Square and in the tunnel underneath the railway station. Some of the people camped out have been begging aggressively around the station and along Guildford Road, creating a nuisance and intimidating atmosphere for residents and commuters.
In my question, a copy of which can be found here, I asked whether vulnerable people in Woking were slipping through the cracks and not getting the help and support they needed to avoid being made homeless.
I received an answer from Cllr Colin Kemp, the Portfolio Holder for Housing, who explained that the council was working closely with the York Road Project, which receives funding to support those facing or experiencing homelessness in the borough. Cllr Kemp explained that the York Road Project engages in active outreach to ascertain the reasons why people are sleeping on the streets, so it can get them the assistance they require. He also confirmed that rough sleepers able to sustain a tenancy are eligible to go on the housing register and can receive financial help through a bond scheme to help them find a place to stay. Those who are not sleeping rough but are concerned they could become homeless as a result of personal circumstances can go to the council for short term support and if necessary can be placed in emergency accommodation.
As a supplementary question I asked how the council was dealing with the issue of aggressive begging. Cllr Kemp noted that the police will speak to those responsible when complaints are received. However, he said that the council had received intelligence that those responsible were often from outside the borough, with the fact Woking is quite prosperous meaning the town is seen as a magnet for professional beggars from London and elsewhere.
I am pleased that the Executive is taking this issue seriously and that those facing homelessness are not being left to slip through the cracks.