In our latest Councillor Column, Helensburgh councillor Graham Hardie explains the ways in which Argyll and Bute Council helps people who are homeless in Helensburgh and Lomond.

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Recently in the national media there has been much written about the rise in homelessness in the UK, for whatever reason.

In Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute Council’s key approach is the prevention of homelessness.

Around half of homelessness presentations are due to relationship breakdown or someone being asked to leave the family home. The council have a mediation service to which they refer cases to try and repair relationships, particularly between parents and young people.

The Homelessness (Scotland) Act 2003 includes measures under which all landlords and mortgage lenders who are seeking to take court action to remove tenants or occupants from a property must notify the local authority at the stage that they start to raise the proceedings.

READ MORE: Sharp rise in homeless applications in Helensburgh and Lomond

This step, contained in Section 11 of the Act, helps the council to identify people who are at risk of homelessness, and the housing team will contact them to try and provide assistance at an early stage and so try to prevent homelessness.

In terms of how the council meets its obligations to homeless people there are three main areas where local authorities have influence.

The first is provision of temporary accommodation. The council took the decision many years ago to make temporary accommodation affordable, as there are people who become homeless who are working, or who get a job while they are homeless, so rent needs to be affordable.

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The council also needs to ensure it has emergency accommodation available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has an ‘out of hours’ service too, which was particularly busy over the festive period.

The council has contracts with establishments in Oban, Dunoon and Helensburgh who provide en-suite accommodation and have staff on 24 hours a day to deal with emergency placements.

The second area of provision is that the council has contracts with ‘third sector’ organisations to provide housing support to households who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

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The third area of provision is that the council is part of the ‘HOMEArgyll’ partnership, which operates a common housing allocation policy across Argyll and Bute, no matter where you live or which housing associations operate in your area.

At this time of year with many people dealing with the debt of Christmas I would urge anyone threatened with homelessness to immediately contact the council at the Civic Centre in Helensburgh.